We have knocked out which offensive rookies are going to challenge the depth chart. Now, we move on to the defensive rookies and where they will be by the regular season. The 2022 draft was focused on defense and rightfully so. With five new defensive draft picks, the Cowboys have some decisions to make. That being said, let’s break down which of these defensive rookies will become starters this year.
For more on what Sam Williams did at Ole Miss just do a quick google search. I have been excited about this pick since it was read. Right now the issue is whether Williams will start. The defensive end position in Dallas has some serious talent. With guys like DeMarcus Lawrence and Dante Fowler on the roster, Williams will have to earn everything. However, Williams currently sits only behind Dorance Armstrong for that right defensive end spot. Armstrong has become a reliable player but Williams could explode and take over that spot.
Williams brings elite speed off the edge that generated 12.5 sacks for Ole Miss last year. While a veteran presence at edge might normally benefit a roster, I do not think Williams should be looked at as a backup. With what Micah Parsons did as a rookie last year, Williams is easily capable of being that productive as well. A young, talented edge rusher that has the footwork, hand placements, and moves down, will be a huge help. I think Williams is at least sharing a starting role with Dorance Armstrong by the end of training camp. By the time the regular season rolls around, do not be surprised if Williams is the week one starter at right edge for the Cowboys.
The next defensive rookie that will impact this roster, is DaRon Bland. Bland was taken in the fifth round and surprisingly, the depth chart could work out in his favor. With the status of starting cornerback Kelvin Joseph up in the air, Bland is currently in line to fill in for Joseph. While Bland will need to prove that in camp and preseason, I think this could prove to be a positive situation for him. It is not often that a rookie is essentially gifted an open spot to take and become a starter.
Bland will need to work on his coverage fluidity meaning how quickly he can switch from man to zone. Bland has good physical traits and physical coverage which will be a solid starting point. With a possible open starting spot, I think Bland will go into camp ready to compete and earn a starting role. It might only be until Joseph returns but if Joseph is gone long-term, that spot will be Blands.
The final defensive rookie I want to talk about is Damone Clark out of LSU. While Clark will likely not see the field in 2022 due to spinal infusion surgery, hold on a moment. Yes, this article is about rookies that will start this year but here is the only exception. Clark would have been a second or third-round pick if not for the surgery. That being said, the talent level that Dallas got for cheap in round five will be huge.
Clark brings incredible athletic and tackling ability to the field. In 2021, Clark ranked fourth in the FBS with 135 tackles, led the Tigers with 15.5 tackles for loss (with 5.5 sacks), intercepted one pass, broke up three others, and forced two fumbles in 12 starts. Those numbers earned him the scouting reports and I think he will be a regular starter in 2023.
I highly doubt Dallas brings back Leighton Vander Esch after this year and Clark could immediately step into a starting role. While his health will be the front-running concern, Clark is the real deal. Pairing him up with Parsons in 2023 could be a deadly combo.
This Cowboys defense has added some key young players that will be impacting the NFL for years to come. Clark, Williams, and Bland are in line to be key contributors to Dan Quinn’s defense very soon. The next step here is to find out how these potential stars will pan out in camp and preseason. If all goes to plan, Dallas could have two rookies starting at key positions this year.
Which draft pick will play the most this season? Comment below and join the discussion!
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