Having already lost Gerald McCoy to a season-ending injury, the Dallas Cowboys just suffered another devastating blow to their defense. With Trysten Hill done for the year, Jerry Jones may have to go shopping to fortify a front seven that has already lost several important pieces.
Can the Cowboys survive another season-ending injury to a key starter? Or will Dallas’ defensive struggles continue?
Injuries have derailed Dallas’ defense
It’s been a painful start to the season for several members of the Cowboys. In particular, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan’s unit has suffered several critical injuries through the first five weeks of the year.
In August, free-agent addition Gerald McCoy ruptured his quadriceps tendon. The perennial Pro Bowler went from being a projected starter to being released.
In their season-opening loss to the Los Angeles Rams, the Cowboys lost Leighton Vander Esch to a broken collarbone. The promising third-year linebacker underwent surgery and got placed on injured reserve on Sept. 15. Dallas also placed veteran linebacker Sean Lee on IR due to a sports hernia.
The secondary has also been forced to rely upon other options due to injuries to key starters. Cornerbacks Anthony Brown and Chidobe Awuzie both landed on IR within the first few weeks of the season, which has played a significant role in the Cowboys’ struggles on that side of the ball. Through fives games, Dallas ranks dead-last in points allowed.
The Cowboys just suffered another devastating blow to their defense
Sunday represented a devastating day on multiple levels for Dallas fans. Obviously, Dak Prescott’s gruesome ankle injury captured everyone’s attention. Unfortunately for Cowboys fans, he wasn’t the only starter who sustained a season-ending injury.
On Monday, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported via Twitter that Trysten Hill suffered a torn ACL in Sunday’s victory against the Giants. The second-year defensive tackle had started all five games before sustaining a season-ending injury.
The 2019 third-round pick played just seven games and did not earn a single start in his rookie year. However, pressed into a starting role due to McCoy’s own season-ending injury, Hill had started to showcase some of the ability that made him a dominant player when he did get on the field at UCF.
Now, though, his absence leaves a gaping hole on a Dallas defensive line that entered the year with sky-high expectations.
Who will replace Trysten Hill?
With Trysten Hill out for the season, the Cowboys will have to dig even deeper down their depth chart at defensive tackle. Unless Jerry Jones signs a free agent, the pressure falls on Neville Gallimore to step up quickly.
That will be a challenge considering the 23-year-old has played a total of 42 NFL snaps. A third-round pick back in April, Gallimore played his college ball at Oklahoma. He finished his 46-game career with 147 tackles (17 for loss) and 8.5 sacks.
The rookie faces a stiff challenge in going from a depth piece to an every-down player. Given the Cowboys’ razor-thin defensive tackle situation, it would make sense for Jones to bring in another body or two.
So who could Dallas target in free agency?
Brandon Mebane remains unsigned after spending the last three seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers. The 35-year-old has started 176 games since entering the league as a third-round pick in 2007. Given his age, he wouldn’t cost much and would at least bring valuable experience to the table.
Another veteran who could make sense is Domata Peko. In August, Pelissero reported that the 35-year-old had turned down several offers in search of “finding the right fit, city, and chance to win.” Do the Cowboys check off all those boxes for the longtime member of the Cincinnati Bengals?
Ultimately, Dallas has to do something to address its scary-thin depth at defensive tackle.
But that probably won’t be enough to save the league’s worst defense.