The Dallas Cowboys shocked just about everyone when it was reported former offensive lineman La'el Collins and former linebacker Damien Wilson were in town on Tuesday for a free agent visit. The Cowboys intend to sign both players to the practice squad as they gear up for the playoffs in two weeks.
With Tyler Smith nursing a foot injury and the Cowboys short on linebackers, Collins and Wilson offer depth and experience at thin positions. There was seemingly a universal agreement among fans in reuniting with Collins and Wilson, but the peace abruptly ended after the Jets waived running back Dalvin Cook.
The fan base is largely split about whether Dallas should sign Cook. On the surface, Tony Pollard has underwhelmed, Rico Dowdle is banged up and fan favorite Deuce Vaughn has been a healthy scratch in all but seven games.
While there's obvious benefit to signing Cook, he's clearly not the player he was early in his career. It's fair to question if Cook would bring any spark to the running game. The Cowboys would be much better off taking a look at now-former Lions defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs, who was released on Tuesday.
Cowboys should sign DT Isaiah Buggs, not RB Dalvin Cook
The Cowboys run defense has improved in the last two games, but it's apparent they've missed Johnathan Hankins clogging up the middle. Hankins is expected back for the playoffs, and he could even return for Sunday's regular season finale in Washington, but Dallas is still lacking in the big-body department.
A former sixth-round pick of the Steelers in 2019, Buggs enjoyed a breakout season in 2022 (his first as a full-time starter in the NFL) with 46 tackles, 10 QB hits, and 17 defensive stops. He's not a world-beater by any stretch of the imagination, but he's better than what the Cowboys currently have at nose tackle behind Hankins.
That includes 2023 first-round pick Mazi Smith, who had another rough game against the Lions on Saturday. With 16 snaps, Smith's snap share was cut in half relative to the previous two games against the Bills (32) and Dolphins (26).
Buggs is even a superior option to recent practice squad signing Carl Davis, too. Davis logged a 38.3 defensive grade against the Dolphins, which was third-worst on the team, per Pro Football Focus. He's also out of practice squad elevations, which should give Dallas added incentive to sign Buggs.
At the end of the day, scheme and offensive line play are the root problems of the Cowboys rushing attack. Cook wouldn't do much, if anything, to fix it. A stout run defense, however, could be the difference in making a deep playoff run.
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