The Dallas Cowboys clinched a playoff berth before they kicked off against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, but they looked nothing like a playoff team en route to losing 31-10.
While the offense's struggles are a concern, the big story in Dallas is the defense's inability to top Buffalo's rushing attack, specifically James Cook, who scampered for 179 rushing yards and a touchdown on 7.2 yards per carry.
While the Cowboys' run defense woes were a collective issue, it was clear to anyone watching that they missed nose tackle Johnathan Hankins.
Rookie Mazi Smith received a high grade from PFF for his sack of Josh Allen, but he wasn't impactful against the run. He's struggling at the point of attack and often loses leverage from both single blocks and double teams.
That will improve with time, but the Cowboys can't wait around for Smith to develop while Hankins remains out. It would behoove them to add another NT to the mix. Luckily for them, the Titans released veteran Teair Tart over the weekend.
Cowboys must sign newly-released DT Teair Tart after Bills disaster
It's worth noting that Tart comes with some baggage.
A three-year start for the Titans, Tart requested his release after a falling out with the organization, which reportedly stemmed from his desire for a new contract. The friction spilled over into Tart's effort and attitude, with the Titans even taking issue with the player's conditioning, or lack thereof.
Fans might view this as a red flag, but Tart's frustration and supposed lack of effort was solely directed at the Titans. Following his release, Tart thanked Tennessee and expressed excitement on social media in finding his next home.
With that out of the way, the Cowboys need to get another NT through the door before they tango with Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel's exotic run schemes and speedy running backs Raheem Mostert and De'Von Achane. After that, they face Lions OC Ben Johnson and dynamic RB duo David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs.
After that, they face Lions innovative offensive coordinator Ben Johnson and dynamic running back duo David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs.
Tart is without question the top nose tackle on the market. He's started 35 games between the last three years and enjoyed a career year in 2022 with 34 tackles, five tackles for loss, seven QB hits, 23 defensive stops and a 67.0 run-defense grade via PFF.
Tart has a reputation as a solid run defender and his towering 6-foot-2, 304-pound frame would help the Cowboys win at the point of attack. The Bills bullied Dallas in the trenches and the second-level defenders struggled as a result.
If you told us Hankins will play against Miami, we'd still advocate for Tart to be signed. Sunday proved Mazi Smith isn't quite ready for the big time.