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Coming Back from Injury, Cowboys’ Trysten Hill Needs a Breakout Year

One of the biggest storylines in 2020 was the health, or lack thereof, of many key contributors for the Dallas Cowboys last season. Trysten Hill was hit by the injury bug as well as he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the New York Giants game, the same game that Dak Prescott was injured in.

It hasn’t been the cleanest of starts for the former second-round pick.

In his rookie season, Hill was left on the sidelines by the coaching staff and only played in five games. With a better offseason and training camp in 2020, Hill looked ready to take on the full workload of an NFL season. He started each of the five games he played up until his injury, but then the ACL tear really derailed things. It was a disappointing end to what was looking like a promising season. Hill was arguably the best interior defensive lineman the Dallas Cowboys had in 2020.

Hill wasn’t perfect, but that also speaks to the underwhelming play the Cowboys got from the middle of their defense. Determined to not have a repeat of the 2020 season, the Cowboys went into the offseason with plans to invest in the interior of their defense. And they did just that.

After adding Carlos Watkins, Brent Urban, and Tarell Basham in free agency, the Cowboys then drafted Osa Odighizuwa, Chauncey Golston, and Quinton Bohanna in the 2021 NFL Draft. Hill along with Neville Gallimore seem to still be the team’s primary 3-technique defensive tackles, but there’s a lot more competition for interior defensive line snaps heading into the 2021 season.

Heading into his third season, Hill needs to pick up where he left off in 2020 by creating disruption with his interior rush and providing the plus effort that was getting him on the field and keeping him there in 2020. In five games last season, Hill had five pressures, including two hurries and three quarterback knockdowns. That was better than the three total pressure he had in 2019 as a rookie in seven games.

The improved play was clear and Trysten Hill was on a positive trajectory. With his season cut short due to the ACL injury Hill needs to come back strong and ready to contribute in 2021. The Cowboys need better interior defensive line play than they received in 2020 and Hill has to factor into that this season or it could be his last in Dallas.

Trysten Hill showed a lot of promise in the five games he played in 2020, but he has to find a way to recreate that performance and build on it. Coming off an ACL tear, it will be a challenge, but he’s shown to be a player that will put in the work to improve. In 2021, I expect that to be no different. He’ll be ready to go by the beginning of the season and will be ready to contribute in the defensive line rotation. The Dallas Cowboys need him to be the player they thought he could be when they took him in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

What do you think?

John Williams

Written by John Williams

Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual, reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.


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  1. In 12 game appearances over his two years, Hill has 16 total tackles and zero sacks. Unless he does a 180 degrees improvement early on this year, we may have wasted a second round pick on him.
    He was a draft pick pet of departed Def Coach Marinelli, that IMO is not working out. Commented about this when they drafted him. His college game film showed it.

    Them loading up on IDLmen during draft and with FA pick ups is a probable tell.

    • For sure. They’re creating competition and like last year with Gallimore it should build him up. It’s kind of a put up year for him. If he doesn’t perform in 2021, could be gone before 2022.

  2. Competition breeds performance and and should foster accountability but I don’t think it’s been consistent throughout the years (especially on D). Who’s fault is that

    • I think you can point to an accountability issue in the Cowboys’ organization. But I think some of it stems from just a lack of talent to actually infuse competition into the defense. Hill had some competition for snaps from Neville Gallimore last year, though there’s no telling how much competition there actually was. But we did see Hill raise his game after Gallimore was drafted. So, there’s that. Adding players to your position should always make you think about raising your game. Hopefully his rookie season was more of a wake up call than adding player to the team was though, because you want motivation to come from internal sources than external sources.

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