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After a season where new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn turned around the direction of the Dallas Cowboys’ defense, there is still potential more improvement. The hybrid defensive front he runs sees a major focus put on interior defensive line play. The three-tech and five tech roles have already been covered, but Quinn also utilizes the zero-tech and one-tech positions. These positions line up right on the nose of the center or on his shoulder and their purpose is to plug gaps, allowing more talented rushers to attack the pocket. They are also tasked with winning at the line of scrimmage in the run game.
On the current roster, second-year DT Quinton Bohanna is Dallas’ only player who truly fits this mold. Veteran DT Brent Urban, who missed a majority of last year with an injury, was not re-signed. Neville Gallimore and Carlos Watkins have played this role some, but are out of position. Will the Cowboys be interested in grabbing help during the draft? Here are some names Dallas might prioritize.
Day 1 Option: Jordan Davis, 6-foot-6, 340 pounds, DT, Georgia
Davis is simply a rare breed. On top of possessing overwhelming size and power, Davis boasts above-average burst and balance. Davis lacks production as a pass rusher outside, simply mauling over guys, but given his frame-athleticism combo there is slight promise for development here. In the run game, he uses every bit of those 340 pounds to toss blockers aside and battle through the line into the backfield. Davis is currently a one-trick pony but enters the league as one of the most athletic and promising 0- or 1-techs.
Ive watched this play 50 times now and I still dont understand how Jordan Davis can change direction like that pic.twitter.com/IpdlERivFS
— Thinking Football (@ThinkingFtball) April 21, 2022
Leaving a double team on Jordan Davis and climbing pic.twitter.com/UPxVCirOi4
— Max Toscano (@maxtoscano1) April 22, 2022
Jordan Davis chasing a cow, he's gonna be a problem. pic.twitter.com/Zn15UN2KN3
— Jason Allwine (@J_Footballwine) April 17, 2022
Day 1 Option: Travis Jones, 6-foot-4, 325 pounds, DT, UConn
Jones has made his name as a man amongst boys on the Huskies defense. He was relied upon a lot as a pass rusher and taking on blockers in the run game as he was one of the only threats on defense. Jones is technically sound and proved that at the Senior Bowl as one of the biggest winners that week. He’s a massive man who moves well and provides a bit more pass rush upside at this position than some others will. The first round might be a bit rich for some but given his dominance in the run game and untapped potential as a pass rusher, Jones would be well worth the pick.
#UConn DT Travis Jones vs. Clemson was one of the best single game showings I’ve seen from anyone in this class. The rush potential he showed at his size combined with his strength in the run game #goodstuff #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/8bdo3V83sm
— Tommy (@tmacdraft24) April 17, 2022
Travis Jones gave him some fits here. pic.twitter.com/kWmYWI9Mzu
— Brooks (@EBrooksUncut) April 16, 2022
Day 2 Option: Neil Farrell Jr., 6-foot-4, 330 pounds, DT, LSU
Farrell fits the more traditional 1-tech as he boasts fantastic size and competitiveness. In addition, he is extremely strong throughout his frame. His thick legs allow for a stout base at the POA as well as having heavy hands to jolt offensive linemen. Farrell is not the athlete others in this class are but has a very good first step for his size and will be able to win at the next level. The pass rush potential is limited with Farrell but as a pure run stuffer, his impact will be felt day one as a rotational piece to keep himself and everyone else fresh.
Last clip. Burst. Neil Farrell Jr., has surprising burst for what most would define as a nose tackle. Also times the snap well. As a result, there are times he has the center, or guard (in 2) in the backfield immediately. TFL here. pic.twitter.com/BMVpBezKHy
— Matt Alkire (@mattalkire) March 28, 2022
Good scouts are always focused on what a player CAN do rather than what they can’t do. Few prospects in this draft are more consistent at what they do best than @LSUfootball DT Neil Farrell Jr. is eating up blocks and clogging inside run lanes.#TheDraftStartsInMOBILE™️ pic.twitter.com/Ln4BX3ugAV
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) April 5, 2022
Day 2 Option: Phidarian Mathis, 6-foot-4, 310 pounds, DT, Alabama
Mathis provides much more versatility than many others would at the 1-tech position. A veteran presence in the Crimson Tide defense, Mathis does not provide much as a pass rusher but plays with intelligence, strength and positional flexibility in odd and even fronts. There has been obvious growth as a leader as he was named a team captain for the lauded Nick Saban defense. Mathis is a team player who gets the job done which someone like Dan Quinn absolutely loves in his hybrid, rotation-reliant system.
This play may get lost in the shuffle but #Alabama DL Phidarian Mathis just saved this play from being a big one by getting flat down the LOS. UGA had numbers on the perimeter and he ran down from the backside. pic.twitter.com/soUbF06xs0
— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) January 11, 2022
Finished up #Alabama DT Phidarian Mathis’ report up tonight and I’m blown away by the violent hand usage. Swipes the hands uses his lower half power to defeat blocks.
— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) January 15, 2022
Day 2 Option: John Ridgeway, 6-foot-5, 320 pounds, DT, Arkansas
Ridgeway will make his money off the back of his strength and natural physical talent. He is a long, well-built nose tackle who has a wrestling background which has historically shown a lot of success in the NFL. This sees his game play more as a one-on-one battler rather than gap plugger however, given his length and production as a run stopper he should slide into that Dallas rotation very well. There is definitely upside for a consistent two-down player here but Ridgeway is likely never going to become much of a pass rusher from this position.
John Ridgeway III is going to be surrounded by three Alabama offensive linemen here. He will then break out of it and go to help out on a tackle. Not on the stat sheet. If you're looking at the stat sheet for nose tackles, we have a problem. pic.twitter.com/WLZ91KrCvJ
— Matt Alkire (@mattalkire) March 10, 2022
Former HS wrestling champ & Illinois State NT John Ridgeway is an impact transfer for @RazorbackFB. Here’s a textbook grown-man rep with sudden lockout & easy block sling. @seniorbowl staff will see @ridgeway_79 (6051v, 320v, 34” arms) play live this week. 💤📈 pic.twitter.com/3qUmqTb3us
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) September 22, 2021
Day 3 Option: Otito Ogbonnia, 6-foot-4, 324 pounds, DT, UCLA
Ogbonnia has one of the most impressive physical statures in this class. At 324 pounds of pure muscle, his explosive strength and burst stand out on film. This allows for natural ability to defeat blocks in the run game but Ogbonnia lacks a lot of technical aspects of the position. Although his game is not as nuanced as some may want, he has the versatility of playing an array of positions along the interior line at UCLA. Should he join former teammate Osa Odighizuwa under the tutelage of Quinn, there is boatloads of untapped potential.
Man oh man… Otito Ogbonnia is a LOAD one on one.
Cole Strange had a nice day today but Ogbonnia’s explosiveness, pad level and leverage are TOUGH. pic.twitter.com/z2CXnjM0oE
— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) February 2, 2022
— Tyler Browning (@DiabeticTyler) February 2, 2022
Day 3 Option: DJ Davidson, 6-foot-3, 327 pounds, DT, Arizona St.
Davidson has shown flashes of solid power rush ability during his time at Arizona State but shows his worth in the run game. Davidson is extremely stout and a challenge to move off his spot, freeing up a lot of space for other defenders. His hand usage and overall athleticism don’t pop off the screen however he is intelligent and fairly flexible for his size. Davidson is not a world-beater but would be a solid depth and developmental piece should Dallas call his number this April.
— Tyler Browning (@DiabeticTyler) January 30, 2022
— Tyler Browning (@DiabeticTyler) February 1, 2022