The Dallas Cowboys head into 2019 having used their highest draft pick, 58th overall, on rookie Defensive Tackle Trysten Hill. What does that addition, along with other offseason moves, mean for the DT position just a few weeks away from training camp?
After getting run over by the Los Angeles Rams in their 2018 playoff loss, the Cowboys' interior defensive line came under fire. Both Maliek Collins and Antwaun Woods were dealing with health issues in that game, and the Dallas defense didn't look anything close to the group that was 5th-best in the NFL in regular-season run defense.
Collins and Woods return this year to prominent roles at defensive tackle. Dallas also has veteran Tyrone Crawford still on the roster, and added another veteran in free agent Christian Covington from Houston. Throw in the Trysten Hill pick, plus other young prospects like Daniel Ross, Shakir Soto, and Daniel Wise, and the Cowboys will likely be losing some talented players at final cuts.
Here's the projected DT depth chart for 2019 so far:
- Tyrone Crawford, Maliek Collins
- Trysten Hill, Antwaun Woods
- Daniel Ross, Christian Covington
- Daniel Wise, Shakir Soto
- Ricky Walker
I'm still not convinced that Tyrone Crawford, despite his history, makes the team this season. As I've written about a lot this offseason, releasing Crawford still yields considerable salary cap space that can be put toward long-term contracts with Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and other stars. There is also the issue of his potential suspension, albeit likely a short one, from involvement in an offseason bar fight.
Maliek Collins should be back and playing at a high level with his rookie contract expiring. Dallas is likely hoping to get a big year from Maliek but then let someone else pay him big money in 2020, replacing Collins with Hill in his second year.
If Antwaun Woods keeps building on last year then he may be the best DT on the team in 2019. He would also be just a restricted free agent for Dallas in 2020, hopefully making him and Trysten Hill an effective but affordable pair of starters. The Cowboys should be hoping to build around them going forward.
Trysten Hill likely won't assume a major role immediately but the Cowboys are high on his potential. He should be a rotation piece early and work his way in.
Keep in mind, though, that Maliek Collins was a 3rd-round pick in 2016 and still led all defensive linemen in total snaps. Hill could play more than we'd expect for a Day 2 rookie.
Also in the mix is Christian Covington, an underrated signing from the Texans. He's converting from a 3-4 defensive end to a 4-3 tackle, and has the size and pass rush skills to play in either spot on our line. Covington may be the piece that allows Dallas to cut Crawford, filling out the top four with upside and versatility.
The big question for Daniel Ross and other lesser options is how many defensive tackles the Cowboys' carry. If they keep the five guys we've already mentioned, it's hard to see any of Ross, Soto, Wise or others making the team.
In fact, I can even see a scenario where Dallas just keeps four true tackles and then occasionally uses larger defensive ends like Kerry Hyder or Taco Charlton on the interior. That's another reason I'm not confident in Tyrone Crawford's job security.
It's a time of transition at defensive tackle, with guys like Crawford and Maliek Collins potentially after this year (if not sooner) to make way for Trysten Hill, Antwaun Woods, and others. For 2019, it gives us lot of options and what appears to be some strong competition throughout the depth chart.
It could be tough for the players, but it should be a big plus for the overall strength of the Cowboys' DT position this season.
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OTHER 2019 CAMP PREVIEWS
Report: Amari Cooper Likely out for the Rest of the Preseason
Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Amari Cooper is likely out for the remainder of the preseason according to ESPN's Todd Archer. He is currently dealing with a form of plantar fasciitis that has kept him out of practice since August 6th.
The three-time pro bowler changed life in Dallas last season as the team went 7-2 in it's final nine games after he was acquired to win the NFC East. Cooper isn't worried about any long term effects, though, as this is something he's familiar with.
"I'm not worried about it at all, because I know if it does linger, it doesn't matter," Cooper said. "I had 1,000 yards when I played on plantar fasciitis before."
The Cowboys host the Houston Texans this Saturday in what is known as the "dress rehearsal" game before the regular season. Starters normally play about a half of football to get the juices flowing for when games really count in September. Ideally, the plan would be for Cooper and Dak Prescott to get a rhythm of sorts before the season starts but that will have to wait until the team prepares to take on the New York Giants on September 8th.
However, the good thing here is this issue doesn't seem to be serious and Cooper will be ready for the start of the 2019 season.
Report: Cowboys Agree To Contract Extension With LB Jaylon Smith
The Cowboys are neck-deep in contract negotiations with some of their team's most important players, but it appears they have gotten one key guy signed this afternoon.
ESPN's Todd Archer is reporting that the Cowboys have agreed to a contract extension with middle linebacker Jaylon Smith, though the exact terms of the contract have yet to be announced.
The Cowboys have agreed to a contract extension with linebacker Jaylon Smith, according to sources. Smith was set to be a restricted free agent after this season but the Cowboys and his representatives started talks in the spring and they ramped up once camp began. Smith, a...
Of course, the Cowboys drafted Jaylon Smith early in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft despite the horrific leg injury he suffered in Notre Dame's college bowl game. Some didn't think Smith would ever recover to be the same player he once was, but in 2018 Smith emerged as an excellent middle linebacker once again. Smith finished the 2018 season with 121 combined tackles and 4 sacks, and has looked just as imposing thus far in the preseason.
Smith regained his athleticism and sideline to sideline speed, while retaining his impressive hit power and sound tackling to become one of the league's best. Combining Smith with Leighton Vander Esch, the Cowboys have put together arguably the best linebacker group in the NFL.
And now, there's no end in sight for the dynamic duo.
Report: 2 Dallas Cowboys to be Activated off of P.U.P. List
Per a report from ESPN's Todd Archer, the Dallas Cowboys will soon activate Tyrone Crawford and DeMarcus Lawrence off of the Physically Unable to Perform (P.U.P.) List.
"The Cowboys are planning to activate defensive linemen DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford from the physically unable to perform list on Tuesday, according to a source. They will work through individual drills in their first steps on the field before going through full practices. Lawrence had shoulder surgery not long after signing a five-year, $101 million contract in April. Crawford has been working his way through a hip issue that kept him out of the offseason program. Safety Byron Jones (hip) and receiver Noah Brown (knee) remain on PUP."
Todd Archer - ESPN.com
This report comes after DeMarcus Lawrence had offseason shoulder surgery in April and signed his five-year deal making him the highest-paid player in the history of the Dallas Cowboys, at least for now. It looks as if Lawrence will be ready for a week one return.
It's long been believed that Lawrence would be available for week one of the regular season and hasn't suffered any setbacks to this point that should lead you to believe otherwise. With Robert Quinn suspended for the first two games of the regular season and Randy Gregory's status still up in the air (he still hasn't applied for reinstatement), getting Lawrence and Crawford back for the first two weeks of the season becomes instrumental.
The Dallas Cowboys defensive line has looked really good through the first two games of the preseason, but as good as they've been, they'll need Lawrence and Crawford once the regular season starts. Lawrence will slot back in as the left defensive end and Tyrone Crawford will split snaps at right defensive end with Dorance Armstrong and 3-technique defensive tackle with Maliek Collins, Trysten Hill, and Kerry Hyder.
While the additions of DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford will help the defense tremendously, there still isn't a timeline on the return of Pro Bowl Cornerback Byron Jones. Jones has been out since having hip surgery this offseason.
With as good as the Dallas Cowboys defense has looked this offseason, there's reason to believe that they can be even better once each of these guys are back in the lineup full-time. For a defense that was one of the 10 best defenses in the NFL in 2019, they'll need Lawrence, Crawford, and Jones to make the jump into the elite stratosphere of NFL defenses.
With the Dallas Cowboys' eyes set on capturing that sixth Lombardi Trophy, getting Lawrence and Crawford back in time to be ready for the regular season is vital to starting the 2019 season off right.
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