The Dallas Cowboys are considering multiple options at defensive tackle early in the draft, but is it really that big of a need?
One can usually deduce who (and what positions) the Dallas Cowboys are looking to address early in the draft based on their pre-draft visitors. Whether a player is one of the official 30 visitors, a workout, or a Dallas Day invitee, the Cowboys nearly always do their due diligence before the big day comes.
To say they are tipping their hand in this way is a massive understatement. The Cowboys are telling us, plain and simple, their intentions. Once the draft unfolds, it may not play out the way they’re intending, but they are making their intentions known now, nonetheless.
Defensive line appears to be one of the positions they are targeting in these pre-draft visits. They met with defensive tackles, Vita Vea, Taven Bryan, Da’Ron Payne, and Breeland Speaks at The Star. Three of those players figure to be first round players available when the Cowboys go on the clock.
And one of them I mocked to Dallas in the latest 7-round mock draft:
Current Defensive Tackle Situation
David Irving headlines the defensive tackle squad for the Cowboys. In the past 12 games played, he’s averaged .833 sacks. As I’ve repeatedly pointed out since last fall, that equates to over 13 sacks over the course of a full 16-game season. He’s a big part of the team in 2018 and figures to have the lion’s share of snaps at the under tackle spot.
As things stand now, we expect Maliek Collins to hold down the 1-technique spot. Drafted to be the 3-tech, Collins has been forced into the NT role with the emergence of Irving. If Irving is lost for any extended period of time, we can expect Collins to slide over into the 3-tech spot.
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Richard Ash and Brian Price are the two players expected to make up the depth at defensive tackle. Of the two, Price stands out the most as an ascending 1-tech prospect. He plays limited snaps but looks pretty good in those opportunities.
But if one of the top two players, Collins or Irving, were injured, the falloff in talent would be significant. That’s why defensive tackle should be considered a need in 2018.
In an extreme situation, the Cowboys could roll Mr. Position Flex himself, Tyrone Crawford, over to the under tackle to pick up the slack. But after years of flipping and flopping him, the coaching staff is hesitant to make such a move.
Just like defensive end, things look pretty unsettled beyond this season.
Collins is under contract and a lock for another year but beyond him not much else is certain. David Irving is playing on a one-year deal and if he continues his trend of productivity, Dallas will not be able to afford both him and DeMarcus Lawrence. Assuming they go with Lawrence, Irving will play elsewhere in 2019.
Considering his 3-technique under tackle spot is Rod Marinelli’s most important position on the defensive line, it would leave Dallas in a precarious situation next offseason. Proactively attacking that position this draft, would make everyone sleep more comfortably this year AND next.
The Dallas Cowboys aren’t in dire need at defensive tackle but they are in need. They have a pretty strong starting pair for 2018, but behind them, the cupboards are bare. And looking ahead to 2019, the Cowboys might be in big trouble in the middle.