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Branded an underachiever the past few years, Trysten Hill begins his comeback following ACL injury

Trysten Hill hasn’t exactly panned out for the Cowboys since being drafted in the second round, but he can change all that with his return.

NFL: OCT 11 Giants at Cowboys Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Trysten Hill was a risky pick for Dallas coming out of UCF in 2019, complete with character concerns relating to his work ethic. The first two years of his career haven’t exactly quelled those concerns, either, with just 12 games played and five starts—all of which came during the disastrous 2020 campaign prior to him tearing his ACL.

Hill missed just over a calendar year before returning to practice earlier this week. appearing slimmer than previously. For a big guy coming off a serious knee injury, that’s more than a little surprising to see.

The Cowboys defensive line has been generally good to begin the year, if far from full strength. This is due largely to guys like Osa Odighizuwa, Tarell Basham, and Chauncey Golston playing at a higher-than-expected level and the flexibility of Micah Parsons to help rush the passer in relief of guys like DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory. Still absent, however, are Neville Gallimore and the aforementioned Hill.

Considering the number of guys the defensive line rotation has been missing over the first six weeks, it’s remarkable the unit has performed as well as it has. Teams are averaging 4.3 yards per carry against Dallas and have rushed for five touchdowns on the year. Despite giving up four runs of more than 20 yards, they’ve done well to avoid disaster with the biggest run being a 24-yard scamper. Overall, they’re 12th in rush defense, but the return of Hill and, eventually, Gallimore, should help plug up the heart of the line.

The run defense was abysmal in 2020 but has made some significant strides through seven weeks of the season. True, they were fortunate enough to effectively miss Saquon Barkley and Christian McCaffrey in back-to-back weeks, thereby denying them a necessary test, but you can only play against whose available. Perhaps that test will finally present itself this Sunday when Dalvin Cook lines up in the backfield.

Though it’s doubtful Hill gets the green light to play this week, his imminent return to an overall improved unit, particularly if he’s in better shape as he appears to be, should provide an added lift to the rotation.

Hill may have disappointed through much of his young career, but Mike McCarthy looks to be legitimately excited to get him back in the fold. If he’s ever going to turn things around and live up to expectations, he may not see many better opportunities than playing under defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and alongside impact players like Parsons and Gregory.

There was some speculation entering training camp that Hill might be on the roster bubble. He now will get a chance to change that narrative and finally live up to his draft billing.