Johnathan Hankins made big impact in Dallas Cowboys debut

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys didn’t know what exactly they were going to get when they traded for defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins last week. On one hand he was a well established veteran who has built a reputation for being an immoveable object in the middle of the field.

On the other hand he was well past his prime, fell out of the gameday rotation on his previous team, and even at his best equal parts asset and liability.

Situationally, Johnathan Hankins is major asset for the Dallas Cowboys run defense.

The temptation to minimize Johnathan Hankins’ impact after seeing the Bears roll up 240 yards on the ground is understandable. As far as rushing totals, it was the Dallas Cowboys worst performance of the season. But much like how wins are not  QB stats, rushing totals are not a DT stat.

Breaking down the game on a per play basis, we can see the impact Hankins made. And as long as we understand his limitations and Dan Quinn deploys him appropriately, he can be an important part of the Cowboys team down the stretch.

Hankins is a space eater and run stuffer. That’s it. He can penetrate ever so often but generally speaking he isn’t going to make splash plays or laterally pursue the ball carrier. Cowboys fans have been clamoring for this type of player for years. Someone who can come in on obvious run downs and not get bullied.

The Dallas Cowboys have typically avoided this type of player, for years preferring DTs who can laterally pursue and not be so easily avoided.

Johnathan Hankins made the case for both sides in his debut. He showed he can be an impact on the field, dropping the EPA/play against on running downs from .152 to -.004 (a significant swing). But also giving up plays 3.14, 2.39, 1.93, 1.77 EPA when the ball wasn’t run in his direction.

Explosive players run to the ball and disrupt while space-eaters are typically at the mercy of the play-call. Hankins is impactful if the play is in his direction but if it’s away, his impact is minimal, at best. Such is the nature of the role he plays.

It’s on Dan Quinn to deploy him appropriately this season. Using him in high-leverage running situations and getting him off the field when offenses are in lighter personnel and/or looking to pass.

There’s no question, Johnathan Hankins made a big impact for the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.