Cowboys begin to address defensive tackle need with Carlos Watkins

Houston Texans defensive end Carlos Watkins (Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)
Houston Texans defensive end Carlos Watkins (Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Dallas Cowboys have had a slow start to free agency, to the surprise of no one. The Cowboys’ brass has made it quite clear they don’t wish to spend their limited salary cap space on overpriced veteran talent. They preferred to build their roster using the NFL draft.

Still, the roster needs in Dallas are so abundant that free agency can’t be ignored entirely. And that means the Cowboys often find themselves looking for untapped talent and potential at more reasonable prices.

That brings us to the announcement on Thursday that the Cowboys have agreed to terms with free-agent defensive tackle, Carlos Watkins, formerly of the Houston Texans, on a one-year deal. Watkins was originally a fourth-round selection out of Clemson back in 2017.

The 6-foot-3, 297-pound Watkins started just seven games over his first three seasons in Houston, never playing more than 34% of the defensive snaps in a single year. But the 27-year old started 11-games in 2020 mainly at defensive end in the Texans’ 3-4 scheme.

Watkins recorded 27 total tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, and 2.0 sacks while playing nearly 50% of the team’s defensive snaps last year. Unfortunately, Pro Football Focus gave him a lowly overall grade of 46.6 for his performance in 2020. Undoubtedly, the Cowboys are hoping a new defensive scheme under first-year defensive coordinator Dan Quinn in Dallas will unlock Watkins’ potential.

Fans of the Cowboys also have to believe this signing is only the first of the team’s attempt to address their needs along the interior of their defensive line. While they do possess talented defensive tackles like Trysten Hill and Neville Gallimore, neither can be defined as true one-technique run stuffers in the 4-3. And Watkins presumably is a better fit as a defensive tackle in this scheme.

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Last season, the Dallas Cowboys fielded one of the worst rushing defenses in the NFL. Ranked 31st in the league, allowing a whopping 158.8 yards per game on the ground to opposing offenses, the Cowboys desperately need a true run defender to clog those rushing lanes. The only team with a worse rushing defense in 2020 than Dallas was Carlos Watkins’s former team, the Houston Texans. (160.3)