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Veteran starts over highly touted rookie on Cowboys’ 53-man roster

As we enter the third installment of the way-too-early 53-man series, tough decisions needed to be made.

As it turns out, this once four-part series will actually end up as a five part series for your reading pleasure.

If you missed the first two parts of the series, use the following links to get yourself caught up.

For , running back, and projections, click here. For and projections, click here. The first two installments of the series were dedicated to the .

As we now move to the defensive side of the ball, it was immediately apparent that deciding who didn't make the roster wasn't going to be as cut and dry as the offensive side.

has proven to utilize traits to get the absolute best out of his players, so finding enough faults in any individual player to merit being left off of the roster proved to be a challenge.

Today we will discuss the defensive line, and how position flex has the line between positions blurred on several players.

DeMarcus Lawrence, Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

Cowboys' DE

defensive line (11)

DeMarcus Lawrence

The longest tenured player on the Cowboys' , DeMarcus Lawrence will begin his tenth season at the position.

Don't let the length of his tenure fool you. Despite being on the wrong side of 30, Tank played some of his best football in 2022.

Number 90 finished the season with 65 tackles, 9.0 tackles for loss, 6.0 sacks, and 13 QB hits.

He even had two fumble recoveries, converting one into the first touchdown of his career.

Tank also has the ability to bump inside from defensive end to in certain packages.

That versatility makes him extremely valuable to Dan Quinn's defense.

He is arguably the Cowboys' best run defender on the edge, and that ability is what will make it difficult for any other player to step in and take his starting position in 2023.

Sam Williams
Cowboys' DE

Sam Williams

Entering his sophomore season, Ole Miss product Sam Williams is expected to make big strides in DQ's defense.

Appearing in 15 games during his rookie season, Williams made several splash plays on his way to a solid statistical output.

Playing in mainly a reserve role (27% of the defensive snaps) behind more established players like and Dante Fowler, Big Sam posted 22 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks, 9 QB hits, and 3 fumble recoveries in his debut season.

Building on that production and stepping into a starting role are likely Williams' first priorities for the .

Former Third Round Pick Fails To Make Cowboys' 53-Man Roster
Cowboys' NT

Johnathan Hankins

Johnathan Hankins was acquired in a trade from the in Week 7 of the 2022 season.

His impact in the middle of the defensive line was immediately felt with the improvement of the run defense.

Hankins was only active for six regular season games before suffering a pectoral in the middle of a game vs the Houston Texans.

Dan Quinn seemed to find a perfect balance of usage for the behemoth nose during a four game stretch where Hankins averaged 38% of the defensive snaps.

Much like before the trade, Hankins' presence was missed during the four game stretch to end the regular season.

Although he seemed reluctant to re-sign at the beginning of free agency, he eventually agreed to a new 1 year, $1.165 million contract.

Expect for Hankins to remain the starting nose tackle on early downs until rookie is up to speed.

Former Third Round Pick Fails To Make Cowboys' 53-Man Roster 1
Cowboys' DT

Osa Odighizuwa

As a complement to nose tackle Johnathan Hankins, Osa Odighizuwa brings more quickness and pass rush to the interior of the defensive line.

Osa is entering his third season in the NFL — a year that many believe dictates if a player's career will fizzle out or be a stepping stone to a longer and more fruitful tenure.

“Diggy” is a three down player who can play any technique on the interior of the defensive line, and therefore makes him valuable to the defense.

Although he only posted 4.0 sacks for the 2022 season, his 11 QB hits and 11 QB pressures show he is just a step away from notching more sacks.

Osa should reprise his starting defensive tackle role for 2023.

Dorance Armstrong
Cowboys' DE Dorance Armstrong

Dorance Armstrong

Fresh off of a 2 year, $12 million contract, Dorance Armstrong lived up to his new money by accomplishing career highs in nearly every single defensive statistical category.

He was a starter in 2022, but for 2023 I have him in a reserve (yet important) role behind Sam Williams on the depth chart.

Veteran Starts Over Highly Touted Rookie On Cowboys' 53-Man Roster
Cowboys' DE Dante Fowler Jr.

Dante Fowler Jr.

After one year in Dallas, Dante Fowler Jr. agreed to a new one year contract worth $3 million.

Fowler is a “Dan Quinn guy” who was drafted third overall by the while Quinn was head coach.

He brings to a team prepared to make a run deep into the , and is a valuable piece of the “NASCAR” defense, where Dallas puts their four best pass rushers on the field in obvious passing downs.

Cowboys' Rookie NT Mazi Smith

Mazi Smith

Rookie first round pick NT Mazi Smith looks to carve himself a prominent role in the defense.

After not being asked to do much outside of stuffing the run under Jim Harbaugh at the University of Michigan, Dan Quinn and the Cowboys believe Mazi can expand his game.

He will start the season as primary backup to starting NT Johnathan Hankins, but I predict by mid-season he will be inserted into a starting role over the aging veteran.

Neville Gallimore Has Taken "Huge Jump" Heading Into Year 2
Cowboys' DT Neville Gallimore

Neville Gallimore

The fourth year pro out of the University of Oklahoma comes in as the fourth defensive tackle on the Cowboys' depth chart.

Neville Gallimore seemed to have fallen out of favor with the defensive coaching staff.

His defensive snap percentage fell from 2021, and he was even a healthy scratch for the first time in his career.

He provides valuable depth to the interior of the defensive line, but he could be on the roster bubble in September if strides aren't made this .

Veteran Starts Over Highly Touted Rookie On Cowboys' 53-Man Roster 2
Cowboys' DL

Chauncey Golston

Chauncey Golston was taken in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft as a defensive end from the University of Iowa.

He has since put on weight, and brings immense value to the Cowboys' defense with the ability to play anywhere on the defensive line.

His versatility allows him to enter the game as a defensive end or a defensive tackle, and still make an impact.

Cowboys draft San Jose State DE Viliami Fehoko Jr. with the 129th pick
Cowboys' DE Viliami “Junior” Fehoko

Viliami “Junior” Fehoko

The Cowboys used their fourth round pick on DE Viliami “Junior” Fehoko in the 2023 NFL Draft.

As a rookie, Junior should provide needed depth, and likely contribute more on situational passing downs and special teams.

Will Micah Parsons finally get the respect he deserves next season? 1
Cowboys' EDGE

Micah Parsons


By no means is the two time All-Pro 1st team player this far down the depth chart, but for the first time in his young career, Micah Parsons will be listed as a defensive end on the roster.

As I'm sure you have already read somewhere online, the Bazooka declared himself to be a full-time defensive end for the 2023 season.

The increase in as a defensive end in 2022 should have been a telltale sign, but the player himself making it official clears any doubt.

I still expect Parsons to be moved around the defense as a chess piece, but it will likely be as a pass rusher from different spots.

His days of being an off-ball linebacker might be completely behind him.

Just outside of the bubble: and Quinton Bohanna

Mario Herrera Jr.
Mario Herrera Jr.
Husband. Father of 3. Cowboys fan since 1991. Stat guy, although stats don't always tell the whole story. My job is a job, but writing about the Dallas Cowboys is my passion.

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