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Cowboys Defense: “Star” Needed in the Middle

If there was one thing clear about the 2017 Dallas Cowboys, it’s that there was a glaring hole in the middle of their defensive line. Good against the run in some games, they got downright gashed in others, and overall left many in Cowboys Nation feeling like the team needs to upgrade in the middle of the defensive line.

While they were eighth in the league in total rushing yards allowed, they were middle of the pack in yards per carry (4.1), and first downs allowed by run (14th in the NFL). If there’s an area where they can afford to improve or add depth, it’s at the 1-technique defensive tackle position, which is similar to a nose tackle in a 3-4.

In 2017, the Dallas Cowboys used Maliek Collins as the 1-tech defensive tackle.

That’s the guy who lines up over the center and is responsible for eating up blockers, allowing the linebackers to roam free. Collins, along with others, did a serviceable job there. But I think most would agree Collins is best suited as a 3-technique tackle, the position played by David Irving.

A Star is Needed in the Middle of the Dallas Defensive Line
Carolina Panthers DT Star Lotulelei

Enter Star Lotulelei, defensive tackle and free agent to be, who has played the last five seasons for the Carolina Panthers. While he’s mentioned that he’d like to return to the Panthers, he sounds ready to test the free agent waters.

At 6-foot-2 and 315 pounds, Lotulelei is the guy you want in the middle taking up would-be blockers, and allowing Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith (and Anthony Hitchens?) room to run to the ball carrier.

He isn’t a guy who plays all three downs for you, like David Irving. He’ll be a guy who makes teams think about running the ball on first and second down, and will help you tremendously in short yardage situations.

Former Carolina Panthers and newly appointed General Manager for the New York Giants, David Gettleman thought enough of Lotulelei to use the first rounder’s fifth-year option to bring him back for 2017. His 2017 wasn’t stellar, if you just look at the stat book, as he only racked up six solo tackles with 19 assisted, according to Pro Football Reference.

His 1.56 combined tackles per game are a career low, and while that may not be a good thing, it could mean that the Dallas Cowboys could get him at a discount. And, as we know, the Dallas Cowboys’ front office loves to bargain hunt more than the guys on Storage Wars.

The Dallas Cowboys will look to fill team needs before the draft, which allows them the freedom to stick to their board and not reach for a position based on perceived need.

There will be a market out there for Star, but The Star would be wise to pursue him prior to the 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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