FRISCO, Texas – Forget the cliché about one year making a world of difference – what about eight weeks?
It got lost in the shuffle of a painful season, but a switch seemed to flip for Neville Gallimore at the midpoint of his first season.
The rookie defensive tackle had played 120 snaps and made one start to that part in the 2020 campaign. Over the second half of the season he'd become a regular starter, making eight starts to go with a substantial increase of 296 snaps.
In a season marked by mishap, it was something to build on – not just for the Cowboys, but for Gallimore himself.
"I definitely gained more confidence," he said during the Cowboys' minicamp last week. "I think obviously that started with myself, but just the guys around me, trusting me to be in that starting lineup."
Gallimore's performance at the tail end of 2020 puts an obvious spotlight on him in 2021. Inexperienced as he might be, Gallimore is the closest thing to a proven holdover among the Cowboys' defensive tackles.
That's not even an exaggeration. Fellow draft pick and veteran Trysten Hill is recovering from an ACL injury that limited him to just five games last year. Veterans Carlos Watkins and Brent Urbans have played plenty of NFL games, but not with the Cowboys. The influx of young talent – Osa Odighizua, Chauncey Golston and Quinton Bohanna – are all rookies.
Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn was asked this spring about how all of those different players fit together, and he noted the importance of differing roles within the roster, likening it to the varying skillsets of basketball players.
"I think we're all following the NBA right now, but for the catch and shoot player who can nail a three in today's NBA, that's a really big deal and they're excellent at it," Quinn said. "Well, there are some players on defense that have some specific roles."
During the course of this early work with Quinn and a new defense, Gallimore was pretty clear about what his role looks like.
"The biggest thing I feel like they need from me is just to be disruptive and be more consistent," he said. "My main thing is getting off the rock, being disruptive and making plays."
It'd be a mistake to etch the depth chart in stone so soon, but that ability to disrupt should give Gallimore a shot to be the Cowboys' top option at three-technique – the passing rushing specialist position for defensive tackles. He only managed a half-sack in 2020, but he did manage four tackles for loss and 12 quarterback pressures.
As he gears up for his second NFL training camp, that's an intriguing amount of potential. Even more exciting is that Gallimore seems to realize it. So even as he works toward a larger role in his second season, it's not a stretch to say he's got his eyes on something bigger.
"I know as I continue to grow and continue to progress, there's a different type of player that I'm working my tail off to tap into," he said. "And understanding that as I continue to build and make progress, that I could be dominant. And that's what I'm striving to be."