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Battle Lines

Battle Lines: More Depth Than Ever at Def. Tackle 


FRISCO, Texas - With the offseason practices – both OTAs and minicamps – all done for the Cowboys this offseason, there is a lengthy break between now and the start of training camp, which begins July 24 in Oxnard.

But that doesn't mean there aren't questions on the table at each position. Each day, we will take a deep dive into each spot on the field, analyzing the top battles, the key players and some bold predictions. Today, we continue with the defensive tackle position.

What Needs To Go Right: First things first – as in first-round picks – Mazi Smith needs to meet expectations early on. Drafting a DT in the first round isn't the norm, but Smith has to be the exception. If he can be the guy the Cowboys are counting on, that will only solidify a spot that was a big need for the defense in 2022.

Biggest Question: Is this run defense better? That's the question going into the season and even though it was addressed by the pick of Mazi Smith, we won't really know what happens until Week 1 against the Giants, who have one of the NFL's best backs in Saquon Barkley.

Battle to Watch: That second-tier of defensive tackles is going to be interesting. Drafting Smith and re-signing Hankins would likely suggest they're going to be on the field, along with Osa Odighizuwa. But after that, where do guys like Chauncey Golston, Quinton Bohanna and Neville Gallimore all fit into the mix? Could be a big pro

Bold Prediction: The Cowboys could have to part ways with a former draft pick at this position. Between Bohanna and Golston and perhaps Gallimore, none of them are expected to be in the starting three rotation that includes Smith, Hankins and Odighizuwa. So someone who has been drafted here, might be on the outside looking in.

Biggest Challenge: Finding reps for all of the defensive linemen. It's not just a problem in the middle, but the outside as well, especially if Micah Parsons is getting edge-rushing snaps. So that pushes players like Dorance Armstrong and even DeMarcus Lawrence inside at times to rush in the middle. That's even less reps for the true defensive tackles.

Key Stat: It's been 32 years since the Cowboys drafted a defensive tackle in the first round. Mazi Smith became the first since the team took Russell Maryland with the No. 1 pick in 1991.