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Understanding the Cowboys defensive tackle position group and how we could see a surprise

With limited roster spots available, things could be a little tricky at defensive tackle in Dallas.

NFL: DEC 30 Raiders at Chiefs Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This offseason, the Dallas Cowboys did something they don’t normally do, they threw some real money at the defensive tackle position. After years of searching for discount fillers, the team decided to ante up a little cash and grab a couple of quality veterans. Gerald McCoy (six-time Pro Bowler) will be the team’s new starting 3-tech, and Dontari Poe (two-time Pro Bowler) will start at the 1-tech position. The addition of these two experienced defensive tackles should be an upgrade in the middle and provide a nice improvement to the defense.

The acquisition of these two veteran free agents will make up half of the team’s defensive tackle position group. The new coaching staff as said they would like to go with six edge rushers and four defensive tackles, and while that isn’t set in stone, it seems reasonable to expect them to roll with just four mammoths in the middle. If that’s the case, and two of them are McCoy and Poe, then that only leaves two more spots up for grabs. So, who gets those spots?

Neville Gallimore

Why he makes the team...

Draft stock doesn’t guarantee one a roster spot, but for a brand new rookie his chances are extremely favorable. When you consider he’s the first defensive linemen selected with this new coaching staff that features both Mike Nolan and Jim Tomsula, you have to figure Gallimore enters training camp with a bunch of people excited about what he can bring to the team.

Why he might not...

The Cowboys invested a third-round pick in Gallimore in April’s draft, which all but makes him a lock to make the team. Since we don’t deal in absolutes, we’ll leave the smallest room to account for some unexpected turn of events that causes the team to move on from him before he’s ever stepped on the field. It would take something disastrous for him to somehow not make the squad.

Antwaun Woods

Why he makes the team...

Woods has been a pleasant surprise since taking over the starting 1-tech job. An undrafted free agent by the Tennessee Titans in 2016, he spent most of his first two seasons on the practice squad before being released in 2018. The Cowboys signed him to a two-year deal, and then again for the upcoming season as an exclusive rights free agent. The addition of Poe now pushes Woods to the bench, but even so Woods is a pretty good reserve 1-tech to have on your squad.

Why he might not...

Woods is the one player who could throw a wrench in things and completely shake up the position group. While he’s a good player on the field, there have been a couple incidents that raise a little bit of a red flag. Last season, he was sent home (along with Trysten Hill) for being late to a team meeting, and then in December he was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana and tampering with evidence. Why it took so long for him to sign his tender is still a mystery. Don’t be completely surprised if Woods somehow manages to flake himself off this roster.

Trysten Hill

Why he makes the team...

Hill was the Cowboys top draft selection last year as he was taken 58th overall. While he had a very disappointing rookie season, he’s only entering his second season. It just seems reasonable to believe the team would give him more of an opportunity to see what he could do.

Why he might not...

It’s true that his biggest advocate, Rod Marinelli, is now coaching in Las Vegas, so we have no idea what this new staff will think of him. However, he’s still an investment the team made and should get a fair shake. But another factor working against him is the numbers. If Gallimore and Woods make the team along with McCoy and Poe, there’s your four guys. When you consider the Cowboys also have the flexible Tyrone Crawford in their back pocket as another 3-tech pass rushing DT option, it’s going to be hard to justify keeping another player if he’s not really showing something in camp.

Justin Hamilton

Why he makes the team...

The Cowboys defensive tackle group may not end up being the best four guys. Instead, it may be the right four guys, and that could include two 1-techs and two 3-techs. With Poe coming off season-ending surgery last year and currently on PUP, the Cowboys aren’t going to go light at the nose. They need to have a viable nose to eat space, and that’s exactly what Hamilton is. If Woods ends up being a surprise release, then they’ll need another big body at the 1-tech, and that could open the door for Hamilton. In the past, the team has hung on to players like Daniel Ross and it wasn’t always clear why, but having depth in all the right spots is important.

Why he might not...

From a talent perspective, he’s probably the weakest link. He’s a former undrafted free agent who has had trouble finding a home. That’s not to say a new day won’t present a new opportunity, but he’s going to need things to fall in place for that to happen.