The Dallas Cowboys’ defense was really good this year, but at times the run defense up the middle was lacking, and this was most evident when Johnathan Hankins was not playing. With the unknown of whether they will bring Hankins back, the Dallas Cowboys could be in the market for a starting 1-technique defensive tackle.
Even if they bring Hankins back, depth is still an issue. Keeanu Benton is everything in run defense at the position the Cowboys could want.
If you look at the stats, the Cowboys had a good run defense, but it was different when Hankins went down. With the loss of John Ridgeway, there wasn’t a ton of depth at a more traditional 1-tech that just ate blocks and freed gaps. They were able to adapt but it was still something that heading into this offseason many feels is a need to finally address with youth.
The Dallas Cowboys still need a block-eating defensive tackle who can’t be moved off his blocks and help the interior of the defensive line against the run, enter Keeanu Benton.
Benton is one of those defenders that may not jump off the screen when you watch games. What he does when you watch him specifically is show power, pure power. On single blocks, Benton overpowers blockers with an ability to push offensive linemen backward.
He can take on double teams and rarely gets washed out if he can take the block head-on. With some closing burst he can get into the backfield and while his pass-rush ability is still a work in progress, his ability to see the running back and get to him with his range and power is fun to watch.
There were a few reps where he got turned around and struggled to recover. He will get too forward at times and get pushed down to the ground, but the frequency isn’t overly concerning, but he will need to work on it for consistency in the pros.
This tends to occur when running down the line and being blocked at the same time, playing in control should fix this. His size does help redirect runners even when this happens. He will need to develop as a pass rusher for teams to see him as a three-down player, but he showed progress this year.
Due to his lack of flexibility physically and still developing pass-rush ability, Benton should be seen as a third-round player, but with a strong showing could jump due to a slightly lighter draft at the position. Benton fits a huge need for the Dallas Cowboys and Dan Quinn could develop him into a player with pass-rush ability. Instantly he will eat blocks, free up linebackers, and help stop runs up the middle of the defense.