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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Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys: The Cuts

Bradlee Anae

This one hurts… I loved Anae coming out of college because there weren’t many pass rushers more technically refined than the Ute. When the Cowboys were able to grab him in the fifth round, there was a legitimate claim to make regarding him being one of the biggest steals in the 2020 NFL draft.

Or so we thought…

The Cowboys coaching staff made an executive decision to redshirt him last season. This wouldn’t have been a bad idea if they hadn’t let players like Aldon Smith and Dorance Armstrong play valuable pass-rushing snaps when it was known they likely weren’t winning these reps. A year later and with another coaching change and philosophy change, Anae absolutely does not fit the Cowboys’ future plans.

Anae tested incredibly poor during his testing cycle and on film, he doesn’t show anything greater than solid play speed. While a strong player with good upfield burst, his arm length is sub 33 inches which, like Gallimore, puts him at a disadvantage compared to other players on this roster. Lastly, Anae wasn’t a great run defender coming out of college. Without many reps at the professional level to prove himself, he doesn’t have a great portfolio to work with.

With so much working against him, Anae could make a roster spot if he shows he can win as a pass rusher from a two and three-point stance. That versatility means he can be used as an “outside linebacker” and as an EDGE, his more natural position. He wins with power, which is music to Quinn’s ears, but he’s essentially starting on the same footing as the rookies on this roster and he wasn’t a premium pick when he was selected by the team.

It’s safe to say too much is working against him at the moment…

Carlos Watkins

Every year the Cowboys bring a free agent that ultimately gets cut before the season starts. Two years ago it was George Iloka, last year it was HaHa Clinton-Dix. Watkins could join this exclusive club after it is all said and done. (Maybe it’s another safety cause apparently, this team refuses to sign good safeties?)

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Watkins played in Houston and was primarily used as a big body to stop the run. In Dallas, he could be an EDGE defender on early downs because he displays solid body control to neutralize blocks at the line of scrimmage. The positional versatility is great, but the team already has younger players who can do what he does at the same position meaning he is more expensive, hence expendable.

For comparison, Dorance Armstrong had similar or better stats as Watkins while playing 15 percent fewer snaps. The production, age, athleticism, and contract all are working against Watkins at the moment. Tough time to be a veteran in the NFL right now!

With training camp starting in the next month or so, it is fun to break down the roster because it gives fans an idea of who to pay attention to in camp. We love it when our best players can take the field and ball out, but the strength any team is and will continue to be based on those who make the final roster cuts.

Cowboys 53-man roster prediction (all-potential edition). light. Related Story

Next. Dallas Cowboys: Is the Cover 3 Defense Dead. dark

Team building is a tricky business. Hopefully, the free agents and veterans the team signed this offseason are as good as promised because this list could look significantly different in about two months. Time will tell as it always does!