Entering his fourth season now with the Dallas Cowboys, Defensive Tackle Trysten Hill isn't exactly a hot name among the young prospects. In fact, many doubt that he'll even make the 2022 roster. But given some mitigating factors over the last three years, could some now be dismissing Hill too quickly?
Dallas drafted Hill in the 2nd round, 58th overall, of the 2019 NFL Draft. With Maliek Collins entering the final year of his contract and the team looking to get younger from the likes of Tyrone Crawford and Antwaun Woods, Trysten was taken for immediate depth and grooming for a presumptive future starting role.
Unfortunately, noted concerns about Hill's maturity and effort during pre-draft analysis manifested during his rookie season. He fell out of favor with the coaches during a disappointing season for the entire organization.
2019 was the last season for that coaching regime. Out went Jason Garrett and Rod Marinelli and in came Mike McCarthy and Mike Nolan as the new head coach and defensive coordinator. And that change appeared to be a good one for Hill.
Whether it was a shift in his personal motivation or a better working relationship with the new staff, Trysten was reportedly a new man during the 2020 offseason and training camp. When veteran Gerald McCoy was lost quickly to an injury during camp, Hill ascended to the starting job and carried that into the regular season.
We saw glimpses of the new and improved Trysten during the first five weeks of 2020. He was active and occasionally disruptive on the field, generating excitement for even better things to come with more time and experience. Unfortunately, Hill tore his ACL in Week 5 and the hype train was derailed.
That knee injury lingered into the 2021 training camp and preseason. Hill was on PUP throughout July and August and that carried into the regular season. He finally returned in Week 10, now a backup to more recent acquisitions in Neville Gallimore, Osa Odighizuwa, and Carlos Watkins.
Based on the last few years it's easy to see Gallimore and Odighizuwa on another level from Hill; front-runners in the competition to be longtime contributors at defensive tackle. But Trysten is still just 24 years old, only a few months older than Osa and actually almost a year younger than Neville. Are we sure that we've seen the best he has to offer?
The road back to relevance won't be easy. Gallimore and Odihizuwa have done more with the early portions of their careers and have more years left on their rookie deals. At this point, they're logically and rightfully seen as superior assets for the present and future.
Hill will need to change that perspective in this year's camp. It's not enough to be solid or even as good as his competition; Trysten has to make these coaches believe he's the best DT they've got to change the status quo.
On the other side of the spectrum, It's not crazy to project that Hill won't make the roster in 2022. He's already behind the three guys we mentioned, plus now there's John Ridgeway and Quinton Bohanna coming up from the rear.
Not only are roster spots limited by Trysten also presents a cap-savings opportunity for Dallas. They can clear about $1.2 million in space if he doesn't make the team this year.
There are many reasons to doubt Hill's longevity beyond this season and perhaps even beyond this August. But when you look at his injury issues and having three different defensive coordinators over his first three years, Trysten has a case for why 2022 may be a different season with a far better opportunity for success.
There's no denying that Trysten Hill put himself in the doghouse as a rookie. But as a former 2nd-round pick who still has youth on his side, Hill may also be one of the bigger sleepers for the Cowboys in this year's camp.