Is defensive tackle the Dallas Cowboys top need in 2019?

Antwaun Woods, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
Antwaun Woods, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /

Despite the fact the Dallas Cowboys‘ offense ranked 22nd in the NFL last season, is defensive tackle actually the team’s biggest need in 2019?

The Dallas Cowboys need a true one-technique at defensive tackle (also known as a nose tackle). A run-stopping disruptor in the middle of their defensive line that can close those rushing lanes and get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Yet, this need has existed for many seasons now and the Cowboys continue to make minimum investments in the position.

For years, Dallas has adopted the philosophy that a one-tech defensive tackle can be found anywhere. Therefore, they have chosen not to invest in the position very highly in either the draft or via free agency. Despite the success, the Cowboys posted last season on the defensive side of the ball, the Los Angeles Rams were able to identify and take advantage of this weakness. And at the worst time possible for Dallas, in the Divisional round of the playoffs.

The Rams gashed the Cowboys’ defensive line to the tune of 273 rushing yards, cruising their way to a 30-22 victory and a path that led Los Angeles to the Super Bowl. During the regular season, Dallas’ run defense actually ranked fifth in the NFL, allowing just 94.6 rushing yards per game to opposing offenses.

One of the reasons the Cowboys played the run so well during the regular season was because the team stumbled on a hidden gem at defensive tackle in the offseason named Antwaun Woods. Lovingly nicknamed the Human Log, Woods was a flier-signing back in May who went undrafted out of USC in 2016. He was signed by the Tennessee Titans and spent the majority of the past two seasons on their practice squad. The Titans released him last summer and Dallas swooped in.

Woods ended up being a 15-game starter for the Cowboys last season and help to solidify the nose tackle position. Unfortunately, the Dallas run defense started to falter at the end of the year, allowing 178 rushing yards to the Indianapolis Colts in a Week 15 blowout loss and 143 yards on the ground to the New York Giants in their final regular season contest.

The Cowboys’ run defense did bounce back in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, limiting the NFL’s top rushing team, the Seattle Seahawks who averaged 160 rushing yards per game during the regular season, to only 73 yards on the ground. But then Seattle happened.

So, going into 2019, despite the Cowboys’ offensive struggles last year, is defensive tackle actually the team’s top need? Here’s how Rob Phillips, staff writer for, recently answered a mailbag question about the team’s need for defensive line help.

"“I agree that the defense was the team’s most consistent group. They’re better than their performance against the Rams, but in that loss it was clear they could use more depth inside to help Antwaun Woods, Maliek Collins and Tyrone Crawford. Woods in particular played a ton of snaps at nose tackle. They need someone else in that rotation who can be disruptive.”"

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Could the Dallas Cowboys use an upgrade at defensive tackle? Of course. There aren’t many positions along the Cowboys’ roster that couldn’t benefit from an upgrade. But is getting a true one-technique defensive tackle to top need in Dallas? I don’t believe the Cowboys themselves think so. And the fact they were able to find a player like Antwaun Woods in free agency will probably only strengthen their resolve when it comes to the belief that those kinds of players can be found anywhere.