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Cowboys 2023 offseason position breakdown series: Defensive tackle

A breakdown of the defensive tackles on the Dallas Cowboys roster. The stats, the cap allocation and projections.

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The Position Breakdown Series is taking every position group for the Dallas Cowboys and looking at the players, their rankings, contract numbers and predicting the upcoming season for each player.

This edition is looking at the interior defensive linemen for Dallas, so let’s get straight to it.

Osa Odighizuwa #97
Age: 24
Experience: 3 years
College: UCLA Bruins

2022 Stats:
Snaps: 706
Tackles: 43
Pressures: 38
Sacks: 5
TFL: 8
Defensive Stops: 31
Penalties: 2

2023 Contract:
Cap Cost- $1,387,143 (0.6% Total Cap)
Dead Cap- $529,524
Base Salary- $1,122,381
Signing Bonus- $264,762

2023 Projection:

Tom - Odighizuwa has been a great value for a third-round pick, and is the starting 3-tech. He is simply the best the team has returning from last year. The only issue he has experienced has been not having enough support in the middle of the line. That has been part of the issue the team has had against the run. But it looks like that is changing, and it may make Odighizuwa look even more valuable.

Mike - The Cowboys drafted Odighizuwa and told him simply go do your job, and that’s exactly what he’s done. No one is calling Odighizuwa a generational player that’s making huge plays through the a-gap, but he’s been steady and done everything that’s needed of him. There are a couple of players for Dallas that are ready to breakout in a big way this season and Odighizuwa is one of the most obvious candidates. The team drafting Mazi Smith and retaining Johnathan Hankins is only going to help Odighizuwa do what he does best, and that’s create pressure and mischief in the opposition’s backfield.

NFC Divisional Playoffs - Dallas Cowboys v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Johnathan Hankins #95
Age: 31
Experience: 11 years
College: Ohio State Buckeyes

2022 Stats: (Dallas only)
Snaps: 170
Tackles: 10
Pressures: 5
Sacks: 1
TFL: 1
Defensive Stops: 11
Penalties: 0

2023 Contract:
Cap Cost- $1,092,500 (0.4% Total Cap)
Dead Cap- $1,092,500
Base Salary- $1,165,000
Signing Bonus- $152,500

2023 Projection:

Tom - During last season, the staff realized that Odighizuwa needed some more beef to work with him. It was simply a team with plenty of 3-tech type players, but no real space eating, run-stuffing, pocket pushing 1-tech, or NT. To address that, they traded for Hankins, and his impact was not only visible when he was on the field. When he was injured, the middle of the defensive line really struggled, and that spilled over into the rest of the defense. He is up there in NFL years, which can be a factor for injuries. What to do, what to do?

Mike - As soon as the Cowboys made the trade for Hankins the Cowboys run defense instantly looked better. The linebacker corps was kept cleaner on run plays and Hankins ability to anchor down and be a difficult object to move out the way helped slow a leaking defensive line down. With so much of the defensive philosophy based on pass rushing and putting pressure on the passing game, it was inevitable offenses would go to the running game and Hankins was a way to slow this simple tactic. Hankins difference was noticed even more when he got injured and missed the last four games of the season. He’s getting long in the tooth now so having someone young to rotate duties with him was a sensible move. Another plus is Mazi Smith will get to learn from him this year only making retaining Hankins a smart move.

Indianapolis Colts v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Mazi Smith #58
Age: 22
Experience: Rookie
College: Michigan Wolverines

2022 Stats: (College)
Snaps: 632
Tackles: 48
Pressures: 25
Sacks: 0.5
TFL: 2.5
Defensive Stops: 32
Penalties: 0

2023 Contract:
Cap Cost- $2,413,581 (1.1% Total Cap)
Dead Cap- $13,274,696
Base Salary- $750,000
Signing Bonus- $1,663,581

2023 Projection:

Tom - Smith was nowhere on my admittedly poor draft radar, but when I realized just what he was, I found myself falling in love with this first-round pick. He is about the same size as Hankins, and has a much higher ceiling. Although he is listed third here due to just being a rookie, he should be the starter when the season begins. Hankins becomes the depth/rotational guy at NT, and that’s all good. I think Smith is going to be a major boost to the defense, just like the team anticipated with the pick.

Mike - Mazi Smith becomes the first defensive tackle taken by Dallas in the first round since 1991; that’s a big tell in how much importance this coaching staff want to put on run stopping this year. Some people had issue with the Mazi Smith pick, but just watching his workout videos will tell you how much of an athletic freak this guy is. I loved this pick instantly and everything about it made sense. He was so powerful that the gym in Michigan had to go get special equipment because Smith was either breaking them or it wasn’t heavy enough for his strength, crazy.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 03 Big 10 Championship - Michigan vs Purdue Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Chauncey Golston #99
Age: 25
Experience: 3 years
College: Iowa Hawkeyes

2022 Stats:
Snaps: 278
Tackles: 22
Pressures: 11
Sacks: 1
TFL: 2
Defensive Stops: 12
Penalties: 1

2023 Contract:
Cap Cost- $1,340,888 (0.6% Total Cap)
Dead Cap- $467,850
Base Salary- $1,106,963
Signing Bonus- $233,925

2023 Projection:

Tom - While Smith is very exciting to consider, he is still primarily going to be deployed on early/running downs. For obvious passing situations, the Cowboys like to employ two 3-tech players to penetrate. Golston is a converted DE and should give them exactly what they want. It will be interesting to see how the coaches use him. Is he going to be strictly a situational player for passing downs, or will he be the guy who also gives Odighizuwa breathers?

Mike - You want to think they have a plan for Golston this year since at this stage he just plays up and down the line where they need someone to fill in. Or it could be that the plan for him going forward is exactly that. Rather than make him a 3-tech or 5-tech or even as a wide-nine, it could be they want to keep Golston as a guy that can stay versatile and do a range of positions on the line. Depending how he looks at camp and where he predominately lines up will be the tell on his future plans at Dallas.

Quinton Bohanna #98
Age: 24
Experience: 3 years
College: Kentucky Wildcats

2022 Stats:
Snaps: 264
Tackles: 19
Pressures: 3
Sacks: 0
TFL: 1
Defensive Stops: 9
Penalties: 1

2023 Contract:
Cap Cost- $987,118 (0.4% Total Cap)
Dead Cap- $94,236
Base Salary- $940,000
Signing Bonus- $47,118

2023 Projection:

Tom - Bohanna just has not developed the way the team hoped he would. He is the biggest player on the roster at 360 lbs, but has not broken through. His roster spot may well be in jeopardy.

Mike - The arrival of Mazi Smith puts Bohanna behind the eight-ball in trying to find snaps on this defense. It’s more than likely he will stay this year but purely as a backup to help with depth in the event of injury.

Additional Mentions:

Neville Gallimore #96
Isaac Alarcón #60

Mike - This is a big pressure season for both players. Alarcón can no longer have the IPPP tag attached him as he no longer qualifies. So that means he counts on the preseason roster numbers and on the practice squad final count if they decide to put him there. If he can’t produce this year and show his worthiness he could be looking for a new team. As for Gallimore, I just hope he can get back to rushing the passer rather than the team trying to make him an all-round defender which he just isn’t. But with the arrival of Mazi Smith this now puts Gallimore’s job in jeopardy and it’s quite likely we don’t see him make the final roster this year.

Tom - I think Gallimore has been miscast for much of his time in Dallas, trying to line up at that 1-tech/NT position alongside Odighizuwa. I’m betting he becomes the primary backup for Odighizuwa, which is why I was speculating about Golston’s role. I think getting back to full time 3-tech work will do him a lot of good.

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