Does Johnathan Hankins trade fix the Dallas Cowboys run defense

(Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
(Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys had no interest in waiting for the NFL Trade Deadline, a week from today. They saw a need and they addressed said need. For as strong as the Cowboys are on defense this season, their ability to stop the run is a clear area of opportunity.

The Las Vegas Raiders happen to be rich in interior girth. They had fat guys to give. Johnathan Hankins was a veteran of theirs who was buried on the depth chart. Vegas wanted young players getting snaps, so Hankins didn’t really fit their vision for the future.

Johnathan Hankins should bolster the Dallas Cowboys defensive line just enough to make the run defense formidable.

The Dallas Cowboys troubles against the run have been a little exaggerated. While Dallas ranks 20th in rushing yards/game and 17th in yards per carry, they are 8th in EPA and 9th in success rate against. Only when compared to their elite pass defense does the run-D look weak. After all, the Dallas Cowboys have the top-ranked defense on the planet right now – it’s safe to say no area can be considered “weak.”

While Dallas ranks 20th in rushing yards/game and 17th in yards per carry, they are 8th in EPA and 9th in success rate against.

But with the feeling of Jalen Hurts winning short yardage situation after short yardage situation by way of rolling maul still fresh on our minds, something had to be done. And it’s clear that all starts with the Cowboys adding mass to the middle of that D-line. Conceding all short yardage clearly wasn’t an acceptable path, so when the Dallas Cowboys got the chance to add girth for cheap, they pounced.

The addition of Hankins, 30,  comes less than a week before the Cowboys face off against the run-heavy Bears. With the Giants and Eagles both ahead on the schedule, fixing the running game simply seemed like the smart thing to do.

And hey, the price was right…

How much does Hankins help the interior? The 6-foot-3, 340lb lineman isn’t quite what he once was and doesn’t have the type of game that shows well in a stat column but he’s a plugger capable of playing 2-gap and stopping movement at the point of attack.

He also offers hidden value to linebackers like Leighton Vander Esch. LVE is one of the best tacklers in the NFL if he gets disruption in front of him. Last season he ranked fifth on non-perfectly blocked runs, per PFF. You think keeping his jersey clean a few extra plays per game will make a difference?

The Dallas Cowboys shouldn’t expect Jonathan Hankins to come in and dominate as a full-time 1-tech, but they should be happy with the move nonetheless. Hankins will likely join Quinton Bohanna as a run-stopping specialist and will be a useful rotational piece in short yardage situations.

From a value perspective, short yardage situations are king. The team that wins those (both on offense and defense) gains a huge EPA advantage which can tip the balance of the game. This is a big move even if it’s a cheap price and only a rotational player.

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Are more trades on the horizon?