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Progress Report: Trysten Hill's Trajectory?


(Editor's Note: NFL rosters change wildly from year to year. This year will be no different, as the Cowboys seek to upgrade their roster via free agency and the 2021 NFL Draft. Still, a large percentage of their roster is already in place, and they'll have plenty of work to do to improve last season's 6-10 record. In the coming weeks, the staff of will evaluate those players who are already under contract, examining their past performance and future outlook. Today, we continue the series with defensive tackle Trysten Hill.)

The Good: For all the scrutiny and criticism that's surrounded him, it actually seemed like Trysten Hill was rounding into being a solid player during his sophomore season.

Maybe that feels like a low bar, but it's important to remember how Hill got here. Thanks to the Amari Cooper trade, Hill was the Cowboys' first selection in the 2019 NFL Draft – which brought heightened expectations for the No. 58 overall pick. Add in the fact that Hill was a personal preference of former defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who campaigned hard to draft him, and it's understandable why his rookie season felt so disappointing. Hill appeared in just seven games in 2019, and he was a healthy scratch on nine separate occasions. That'd be disappointing for any rookie, let alone a second-round pick.

Now, bring it back to the present. Hill was facing as much scrutiny as anyone on the Cowboys' defense heading into his second training camp, and an untimely injury to Gerald McCoy forced him into an even larger role than initially expected.

Without trying to oversell it, Hill did seem to rise to that occasion. Through the first four weeks of the season, before an unfortunate ACL tear, Hill played 63% of the defensive snaps. His production wasn't eye-popping, but he did manage 13 tackles and one tackle for loss to go with four quarterback pressures.

Again, perhaps that's too low of a bar, but Hill was consistently contributing – and that's more than we can say about his rookie year.

The Bad: Hill was just another part of the Cowboys' absurd rash of injuries in the early part of the season. Adding insult to the literal injury was the fact that he tore his ACL on the same day that Dak Prescott was lost for the season with a compound ankle fracture. So not only was Hill lost for the year after just five games, but his injury was also overshadowed.

It's obviously not his fault that he got hurt, but there's no denying that it's a bummer of a start to Hill's career. At the halfway point of his rookie contract, he has appeared in just 12 games with only five starts. He has 16 career tackles and has yet to notch his first NFL sack.

That's incredibly disappointing for a Top 60 draft pick – there's no other way to slice it.

On the bright side, Hill's arrow appeared to be pointing upward when he got hurt. The hope is that he can continue that trajectory once he returns from injury and give the Cowboys some bang for their buck over the second half of his contract.

Best Of 2020: It's slim pickings for a guy who played in just five games, unfortunately.

It wasn't exactly pretty, but the Cowboys' defense played much better in the season-opening loss to the Los Angeles Rams than it did for large stretches of the season. The Rams finished with 422 yards, but they scored just 20 points and averaged just 3.8 yards per carry – which was a much better showing than the Cowboys' abysmal run defense would put up later on.

Hill was an active part of that, finishing the night with a career-best seven tackles in 39 defensive snaps.

Contract Consideration: There's not much to see here, to be honest.

As a second-round draft pick in 2019, Hill is playing on the standard, four-year deal that all draft picks are signed to. He's technically eligible to negotiate a new deal after the 2021 season – though, given the slow start to his career, that seems highly unlikely.

The more realistic scenario is that Hill has two seasons to show his stuff before he becomes eligible for free agency in 2023.

What's Next: As was previously mentioned, it's time for Hill to show his stuff.

At the very least, it's at least fortunate that the ACL injury happened early in the 2020 season. With roughly 10 months between the time of the injury and the start of training camp, the soon-to-be 23-year-old has plenty of time to rehab and get ready for another go.

Hill and Neville Gallimore are currently the centerpieces of the defensive tackle position. It's a good bet the front office will address that spot – either through the draft, free agency or both. But even still, the two promising young draft picks figure to be a big part of their plans for the foreseeable future.

With any luck, Hill can keep the upward trajectory going into this pivotal third season.

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