Dallas Cowboys: Predicting the 2021 defensive line

Dan Quinn, DC, Dallas Cowboys Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Dan Quinn, DC, Dallas Cowboys Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /
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Brent Urban, IDL, Dallas Cowboys Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Brent Urban, IDL, Dallas Cowboys Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /

Dallas Cowboys Interior Defensive Line Room

Brent Urban

Outside of Lawrence, Urban might be the easiest name to pencil in for a roster spot on the 2021 team. He signed to be the team’s interior run stopper. After positive reports from minicamp, there doesn’t seem to be a change on the horizon. Urban prides himself on being the guy the defense can count to take double teams and clog holes; if his time in Chicago is any indication, he is right to feel that way.

While Urban is a bit leaner than the average 0 or 1-technique tackle, his long arms and strong lower body allow him to engage first at the point of attack (tell me if you’ve heard that one before) and neutralize blocks even without having to maintain a good pad level. For the same reasons he’s a good run stopper, he looks a bit disjointed as a pass rusher using power and counter moves.

That said, at the ripe age of 29 years old, he is coming off his best season as a pro and will likely garner greater than 35 percent of snaps like he did last year in Chicago. If were are extrapolating based on precedent, next year the Cowboys might finally be better up front on defense.

Osa Odighizuwa

Another no-brainer to the squad list, the third-round pick out of UCLA looks like a potential starter for this defensive line in his rookie season. Odighizuwa is a bit of a tweener in size, standing at 6-foot-1.5, 280 pounds, but his arm length and play strength stand out. Defenses with odd fronts likely view him as a four or five-technique, teams with even fronts view him as a 3-technique.

The Cowboys, running a combination of both, see the obvious advantage a player with his versatility can give them. As long as they don’t force him to fluctuate between positions as they did with Tyrone Crawford, he should be a better professional player than a college player.

As a run defender, the Bruin is as solid as they come. With an incredible wrestling background, he understands how to gain leverage against guards and tackles and can always be the low man. With most of his weight concentrated in his legs moving him is a difficult task for any offensive lineman. With his 34-inch arms and over 10-inch hands, trying to beat him off the line of scrimmage is a task of greater difficulty.

Odighizuwa is additionally a solid pass rusher. He has at least 3 sacks each of the last three seasons and this was with multiple alignments at UCLA. Hopefully, with the number of bodies and pass rushers on this team, the Cowboys can force him to rush from one or two spots and have him beat slower interior guards and centers.

Hopefully, in a few years, the Cowboys wish they took the Bruin a round or two earlier.

Trysten Hill

The 2019 second-round selection has had a rough going in his time in Dallas. In his first year, he was notoriously hard to coach and reported as being relatively lazy compared to the rest of the room. In his second season, the UCF Golden Knight tore his ACL in his fifth game of the season. His track record so far had me thinking he might be the odd man out by the time the season starts.

I’ve been critical of Hill in the past. His good motor seems to have carried over but he just doesn’t possess the timing yet to employ his versatile pass rush plans and his consistently high pad level gives opposing offensive linemen an easy target to stop when in reality he should be using his elite explosiveness and speed to consistently wreak havoc with a simple bull rush. He also doesn’t possess much versatility to line up at different spots on the line.

But even though he is still developing and can’t currently do what we want him to do, he still started for this team in 2020. Whether that was a result of injury management or actual skill level, he was still on the field a lot at the beginning of the previous season.

The Cowboys seem pretty intent on developing the young defensive linemen on this team. With Dan Quinn as the defensive coordinator and defensive line coach this shouldn’t come as a surprise. There are a lot of athletes on this line, now we have to wait to see who develops into a defensive lineman quickly.

Hill had the benefit of learning under Jim Tomsula last season to help refine some of his technical woes; he has the perfect mentality for a Dan Quinn defensive lineman; his calling card is pass rushing. The Cowboys made it a point to stock up on run defenders, so naturally, the team loses the ability to stash a volume of pass rushers. When the team has a pure pass rusher in Hill, they don’t have much of a choice but to keep him around.

Neville Gallimore

The next player to likely make the roster is another former third-round selection. At the beginning of the season, the Canadian native was buried on the depth chart in favor of veteran presence. After the veteran presence underperformed or got injured, Gallimore was forced to play more. He showcased some flashes while undergoing typical rookie growing pains.

Gallimore is in a better situation this season than last. The Cowboys stashed a lot of veteran talent last year only for them to realize the players they signed weren’t very good. This year, they signed only a couple of veterans in the hope of establishing that the best young players will win the jobs on the team.

If used properly, Gallimore is a 0 or 1-technique tackle who can swallow double teams for the rest of the line and neutralize blocks with his good leg strength and core strength. He displays a great motor can only strengthen his hold on a depth chart coached by Dan Quinn. As a pass rusher, he is incredibly limited to a bull rush because he doesn’t display much bend or change of direction ability, but defensive tackles have made a living off of being the best bull rushers in the league.

Generating interior pressure quickly can secure the bag.

The biggest reason why Gallimore wouldn’t make the roster is because of his length. Gallimore has sub-33-inch arms. If this draft class is any indication, the Cowboys might not have drafted Neville Gallimore in the 2020 NFL draft had Dan Quinn been the defensive coordinator on arm length alone. For a linear player, not being able to consistently engage at the point of attack makes it harder to collapse the pocket.