Fixing their horrendous defense from last year has been a primary goal for the 2021 Dallas Cowboys. They’ve added numerous new faces through free agency and the draft at every level. Today, I thought we’d look at all of the defensive linemen coming to training camp and see what the current depth chart might look like.
The starting jobs at defensive end would seem to be spoken for between DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory. With Lawrence one of the NFL’s premier run-stoppers and Gregory finally able to contribute consistently, Dallas will be counting on them to stabilize the entire defensive line.
The rest of the d-line, from the backups ends to all of the tackle positions, where we have the big questions. With six returning players and seven new ones all vying to make the roster, where do they seemingly stand heading into camp?
On the following list, players on the top line are who I expect to make the roster. Below them are other players currently signed and scheduled to participate in the 2021 camp and preseason.
- DE: DeMarcus Lawrence, Chauncey Golston
- Ron’Dell Carter
- DT: Neville Gallimore, Trysten Hill, Osa Odighizuwa
- Austin Faoliu
- DT: Brent Urban, Quinton Bohanna
- Carlos Watkins, Justin Hamilton
- DE: Randy Gregory, Tarell Basham, Bradlee Anae
- Dorance Armstrong
Some of these players are easier to predict than others just based on money a draft position. Dallas just spent 3rd-round picks on Chauncey Golston and Osa Odighizuwa, making them virtual locks for the roster at least in their rookie seasons. Free agent Brent Urban got a fully-guaranteed $1.75 million contract to join the Cowboys this year; far better security than Carlos Watkins received.
Tarell Basham hasn’t been a sack machine thus far in the NFL but he’s the one veteran addition the team made at defensive end. He’s also one of the few 2021 free agents to get more than just a one-year deal; a good sign for his job security for at least this first season.
Leaving Dorance Armstrong off the roster isn’t easy given his experience and occasional flashes as a pass rusher. But this is the DE’s fourth season and there are shinier new toys in the fold now with years left on their cheap rookie contracts.
The situation between Odighizuwa, Neville Gallimore, and Trysten Hill as young DT prospects is very intriguing. How much loyalty do the Cowboys still feel to Hill after two years and two changes at defensive coordinator? Have either he or Gallimore really shown enough to have benefit of the doubt now?
While only a 6th-round rookie, Quinton Bohanna sounds like exactly what the Cowboys have needed in a true space-eating DT for their run defense. But 32 teams allowed Bohanna to fall far in the last draft; are we overestimating his value thanks to typical post-draft recency bias?
The shift at defensive coordinator makes it hard to know exactly what the Cowboys will be looking for at these positions. Years with Rod Marinelli got us comfortable with the kind of players he liked, and one year with Mike Nolan was enough to know that his opinion shouldn’t matter anymore.
Now it’s Dan Quinn’s turn to try to put together a competitive defense in Dallas. How much will he try to improve things for returning talent or look to replace them with the guys he had a say in signing and drafting? We’ll learn a lot more about Quinn and all of these players when camp kick off next week.