Much like safety, defensive tackle had long been a sore spot among fans of the Dallas Cowboys. Once the days of Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher were done, the position seemed to be in flux, with players coming and going out, but it never really received the same attention as other spots on the roster.
In 2013, the Cowboys had the opportunity to draft Sharrif Floyd with their pick at #18, which at the time would have been considered a steal. Instead, the Cowboys traded down and eventually selected some guy named Travis Frederick. Fans and analysts were quick to condemn the Cowboys for the move, even though in the end Dallas was proved right. The whole incident led to a reorganization of the Cowboys draft process.
Since that time, the annual draft process has led fans and mockers to give the Cowboys a defensive tackle at various points early in the draft, only to have it never occur. In 2016 they did select Maliek Collins in the third round, which was the most draft resource they would put into the position until the pick of Trysten Hill in 2019. That pick is looking like a failed effort at recharging the position.
Now, in 2020, with a new coaching staff in place, the Cowboys are paying serious attention to the position. Free agency brought two vets with past histories of solid-to-great play in the trenches. Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe are the kinds of signings in free agency the Cowboys usually stay away from - vets who are, or will soon be, on the wrong side of 30 with name status.
McCoy and Poe are the present of the position, and would seem to be the upgrade the Cowboys have needed for some time now. In the 2020 draft, the team looked to its future when they selected Neville Gallimore in the third round.
Todd Archer has an excellent story out about Gallimore that is worth a read. The crux of it is that Gallimore is as hard-working as any player, and that because of his Canadian background, he’s just getting started on reaching his potential. Canada isn’t a hotbed of prospects for American football, so his coaching and competition along the way were subpar. His athleticism is not in question, so if he can master the nuances and techniques needed, he could blossom into a star.
Gallimore describes himself in this way:
“A high-effort guy. A guy with the jack-of-all trades. A guy that’s also disruptive and can rush the passer or a guy that can stop the run,” Gallimore said, describing himself. “Whatever you need, whatever you want from me, I will do just that and I’ll do it to the best of my abilities. And how I kind of describe myself, again, is an unfinished process. I feel like a lot of people understand that my ceiling is so high, and I know that. Again, the best football hasn’t come out of me yet, but it’s coming. It’s coming soon.”
The Archer article looks in-depth at Gallimore’s upbringing in the sport of football and how everywhere he went people marveled at his work ethic and wanting to get better. It describes him as a middle-schooler hanging out to watch varsity practices and trying to pick up anything he could. He had to move around to get noticed by American colleges and finally caught the eye of Oklahoma. There, he got his first real taste of top-level coaching and a complex playbook. When he got a new defensive coordinator last season, his game elevated.
“When you look at a guy with that athleticism and that quick twitch, the ability to penetrate gaps, he’s going to be effective both in the run game and pass game,” Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said. “But in this day and age if you can’t rush the passer, your role at any level is going to be minimized.”
Last season was Grinch’s first at Oklahoma, coming in from Ohio State. While he saw Gallimore’s athleticism, he literally saw too much of him. Gallimore dropped 30 pounds in the offseason to fit the changes Grinch was bringing, moving to 301 pounds.
“They had more of a two-gap approach, stay on the line of scrimmage and the order of the day was to get big and kind of build a wall,” Grinch said. “Our style is more get in the backfield, penetrate gaps, place a premium on the athleticism. So he, among others, but him chiefly thought that there was no need to be that far north of 300 pounds.”
The Cowboys are okay with bigger defensive tackles now, see Dontari Poe. But Gallimore seems like he will specialize in disruption and trying to drive the quarterback out of the pocket. The good thing is he won’t be alone. The Cowboys have invested resources into the position, and they have a young guy who they hope can be a cornerstone on the line for the future.