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13) Is DT still the most pressing need?


(Editor's Note: In the upcoming weeks before the start of training camp, the staff of is looking to answer the 20 biggest questions facing the team heading into the 2024 season. Today, the series continues with a focus on defensive tackle and where that position stacks up with the rest of the roster.)

13) Is DT the most pressing need?

Nick Harris: Absolutely. As of now, there is not a 1-Tech on the roster that has proven that he can produce at the NFL level to replace what Johnathan Hankins brought in 2022-2023. Mazi Smith didn't have the rookie season most expected, and with offseason shoulder surgery paired with a decrease in play weight, the expectations for him might need to start at a low level going into year two. Behind him, Carl Davis had his chance in 2023 to step up in place of Hankins and did not produce. Justin Rogers and Denzel Daxon bring the wide frame you look for at the position, but have zero NFL experience. And that's before we even get to the idea that if Osa Odighizuwa were to miss any action with injury, there is no certainty as to who would fill his role.

Mickey Spagnola: One of the most pressing needs, if not the most. When you look at the depth at nose tackle after the free agent losses of starter Johnathan Hankins and top rotation tackle Neville Gallimore, there isn't much proven left as a true 1-technique next to 3-tech starter Osa Odighizuwa. That is why the Cowboys sorely need 2023 first-round draft choice Mazi Smith to make a huge second-year leap. Because after Smith, it's basically journeyman ninth-year veteran Carl Davis, who spent all but two games last year on the practice squad, seventh-round draft choice Justin Rogers and undrafted rookie free agent Denzel Daxon to serve as run pluggers. So absolutely a need.

Patrik Walker: Yes. Si. Oui. Ja. Da. I'm not sure how many languages I need to say it in, but you get the point. That's not to say the Cowboys are entirely deficient at defensive tackle, because they aren't. It is instead to point out the reality that the unit has far more question marks than, now, any other position group on the roster. The RBs corps has eight bodies to at least sort through and two definite starters. The LBs corps added Eric Kendricks, Marist Liufau and others, and they're getting DeMarvion Overshown back. The CBs unit is getting Trevon Diggs back, retained Jourdan Lewis and drafted Caelen Carson — so forth and so on. The success at DT will be predicated upon the stellar play of Osa Odighizuwa and …? Thus, my point. Mazi Smith is pressured to have a breakout season and so is Chauncey Golston. Justin Rogers is a rookie late-rounder with lots of potential but a large learning curve, and the same applies to undrafted rookie Denzel Daxon, while Carl Davis hopes to fight his way onto the roster. So, again, yes (si, oui, ja and da).

Kurt Daniels: Well, right now defensive tackle does appear to be the most pressing need, but if Tyler Guyton and perhaps even Cooper Beebe aren't ready for the big stage come Week 1 at Cleveland, the Cowboys offensive line is sure going to look pretty needy. If those two rookies can't step into the starting lineup, then you're relying on Chuma Edoga at tackle, largely a career backup, and Brock Hoffman at center, who has all of two starts. Remember, defensive tackle was considered a weakness last season, and the Dallas defense still finished fifth in the NFL in both fewest points and fewest yards allowed. How will the offense function if the line is considered a weakness? Let's hope we don't have to find out.

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