The Dallas Cowboys did not have a first-round pick last year because they traded it away to the Oakland Raiders to acquire Amari Cooper. That meant fans had to wait until 57 other players were taken off the board before they could finally celebrate the selection of their first new college player. But those joys were met with disappointment when team picked Central Florida defensive tackle Trysten Hill, who many believed was selected way too early.
With his rookie season in the books, there is little reason to believe better days are coming. He rarely saw the field last year as he was only active for seven games, playing on just 121 total defensive snaps. Hill finished the season with just four tackles and didn’t record a single sack.
Things don’t appear very promising for the upcoming season when it comes to getting more opportunities as the Cowboys have added some new pieces to their defensive tackle position group. Free agents Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe are expected to be the starters. The team also has Tyrone Crawford, who will be returning after missing 12 games last season with a hip injury. He should log time both on the inside and outside as he’s done in the past. And then there is this year’s third-round draft pick Neville Gallimore who should command a little bit of playing time as well. So, where does that leave Hill?
With McCoy, Poe, and Crawford getting the lion’s share of the playing time, it should be a dogfight for the younger guys to earn their way in the field. For Gallimore and Hill, both these guys are Day 2 draft investments who still need to be properly evaluated. But which one of these players will be higher on the depth chart and log more playing time?
When it comes to their physical attributes, Hill is hands down the superior athlete. Here is a side-by-side comparison of several traits for these two young defenders:
As you can see, the 40-yard dash is the only area where Gallimore has the advantage, and truth be told - that’s really one of the last things you care about when evaluating defensive tackles. Hill has better strength, longer reach, and more impressive quickness than Gallimore; however, none of that pass-rushing ability was on display last season. Potential and a dollar will only get you a cup of coffee at McDonalds.
While Hill has a more intriguing upside, it’s been Gallimore who has shown the most consistency. He’s a more relentless pursuer and plays with a sense of urgency on every snap. He’s fundamentally sound and possesses several different pass rushing moves. Gallimore does a good job recognizing how the play develops, which is one of the reasons he’s had so many highlight plays at Oklahoma. And while he doesn’t have the same pass rushing promise as Hill, he’s a more reliable ru- stopper and it’s not even close. Hill only played through his junior season, but at the same points in their college career, Gallimore had 60% more tackles (118 compared to 71) than Hill. In short, Gallimore will run you down.
The Cowboys have a new defensive coordinator in Mike Nolan as well as a new defensive line coach in Jim Tomsula. Both Hill and Gallimore should get a fair shake to see what they can add to this defense, but it should be noted that the coach most enamored by Hill’s ability, Rod Marinelli, is now the defensive line coach in Las Vegas. And considering the new defensive tackles who have been added to this roster are players who have demonstrated they can also be effective against the run, that could give the edge to the rookie.
Another thing to take into consideration is that this defensive line group is loaded with young guys with untapped potential. What happens if a player like Bradlee Anae or Ron’Dell Carter look rather impressive in camp? There’s also last year’s rookies like Joe Jackson and Jalen Jelks who have an outside shot to make the team as well. When you take into account that Aldon Smith and possibly even Randy Gregory are going to occupy a roster spot, combined with the DT flex of Crawford - it might come down to the Cowboys just not having the numbers to keep extra defensive linemen on the roster.
Some may say it’s negligent not to give this guy more time to show what he can do. That’s fair. Of course, we got a lot of that same type of feedback when we considered moving on from Taco Charlton last year before the season started. The Cowboys made a tough decision to wave the white flag on him after only two years with the team. Granted, that’s one year longer than what Hill has right now, so the young defensive tackle may get more time, but nothing is guaranteed. Making a bad pick is one thing. Keeping him on the roster over guys who are demonstrating more ability is even worse. The clock is ticking, so if you’re thinking about buying a Trysten Hill jersey, you might hold off for a bit.