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Trysten Hill named as a dark horse candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year

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The Cowboys rookie shouldn’t be overlooked in Rod Marinelli’s defense.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys-Minicamp Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

It’s kind of amazing how low Trysten Hill is flying under the radar for Cowboys fans.

Really, think about it. Typically the team’s first-round pick has been anointed by this time of year, and while Hill wasn’t one of the first 32 selections a few months ago he was the first choice that Dallas made, and that means an awful lot.

The thing is, he plays sort of an un-sexy position. And that’s okay! Defensive tackles are very necessary in the game of football but the cold truth of it is they don’t get the flashy sacks that defensive ends do. Hey, that’s life.

Plus, the Cowboys have managed to be just fine at defensive tackle for some time. They’ve worked their way through Jason Hatcher and Henry Melton, found themselves a nice product in Maliek Collins, and recently helped Antwaun Woods turn into a legitimate force in the heart of the unit. Versatile Tyrone Crawford has also helped out.

Trysten Hill though... he’s different.

Hill’s athleticism and tenacity for the game of football are well-documented and were on display during his time at UCF, but whether those skills can translate to the NFL level is always the question when it comes to rookies.

Hill could be a dark horse candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year

The good news for Hill is that the same guy that coached Hatcher, Melton, Collins, Woods, and Crawford is Rod Marinelli, as in the same Rod Marinelli that will be coaching him currently (records show this is also the same Rod Marinelli that pounded the table for Hill during the draft). If there’s anyone that can turn Hill into the player that we all want him to be then it is undoubtedly the defensive line whisperer that is Marinelli.

This is a sentiment that NFL analyst Lance Zierlein agrees with. He put together a list of 10 players that could win Defensive Rookie of the Year and while Hill wasn’t on it, Zielein did go out of his way to mention him as a “dark horse” candidate.

Strong, explosive and quick, Hill possesses key penetration ingredients and happens to be playing for Rod Marinelli, a chef who knows how to whip those ingredients into disruptive dishes. Hill ended up in the doghouse in his final season at UCF, but the second-round pick’s talent leaped off the tape, and his outstanding performance at the NFL Scouting Combine provides reason to believe that he may belong in this group.

Cowboys fans know full well what it’s like to have a rookie challenge for DPOY, Leighton Vander Esch did it just last season. While LVE didn’t ultimately win the honor, it did to go another linebacker in Indianapolis’ Darius Leonard, and part of the challenge for Hill will be overcoming the mold to which awards like these fit. It’s generally one of a few positions (Zierlein also touches on this idea).

Consider the last 10 Defensive Rookies of the Year. There are definitely defensive tackles present, but they’re generational ones. If that’s Trysten Hill, then things are going to be just fine.

Last 10 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Winners:

  • 2018: Darius Leonard............... Linebacker
  • 2017: Marshon Lattimore......... Safety
  • 2016: Joey Bosa....................... Defensive End
  • 2015: Marcus Peters................ Cornerback
  • 2014: Aaron Donald................. Defensive Tackle
  • 2013: Sheldon Richardson...... Defensive End
  • 2012: Luke Kuechly.................. Linebacker
  • 2011: Von Miller........................ Linebacker
  • 2010: Ndamukong Suh............ Defensive Tackle
  • 2009: Brian Cushing............... Linebacker

As you can see only Donald and Suh won the award as defensive tackles in their rookie seasons. Generally the award goes to the ends and linebackers, but that doesn’t mean that winning DROY is the only way to qualify success for Hill in his first season with the Cowboys.

Honestly, what people are rooting for more than any individual award is for Hill to be the type of player that can disrupt offensive backfields, leading to pressure on the quarterback and slowing down elite run games. If he fills that void then the awards will come in due time.