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All the buzz has been about another defensive end, but keep an eye on this Cowboys UDFA.
When talking about the Cowboys UDFA acquisitions in 2020, a few players seem to get the buzz over all the rest. Fullback Sewo Olonilua has gotten plenty of ink about possibly making the final roster, linebacker Francis Bernard as been noted a few times, and defensive end Ron’Dell Carter has plenty of admirers. Our own Connor Livesay pointed out some of Carter’s good traits and David Howman noted the Cowboys invested a little more to acquire Carter.
So naturally Ron’Dell Carter is the defensive end that stands the best chance of cracking the Cowboys roster. As Lee Corso would say, not so fast, my friend. Bleacher Report decided to pick the best UDFA for each NFL team heading into training camp. When it came to the Cowboys they picked a defensive end, but it wasn’t Carter.
Dallas Cowboys: DE Ladarius Hamilton
North Texas might not be a college football powerhouse, but former Mean Green defensive end Ladarius Hamilton was a powerhouse during the 2019 season. He appeared in 12 games and finished with 39 tackles, 8.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss.
The 6’3”, 260-pound Hamilton has the combination of size and agility needed to be a developmental edge-rusher at the next level.
For the Dallas Cowboys, this could be huge. Dallas needs a replacement for Robert Quinn, who racked up 34 tackles, 11.5 sacks and two forced fumbles last season. The Cowboys did little to replace Quinn, aside from signing Aldon Smith, who remains suspended by the NFL.
While it’s too early to pencil in Hamilton as an edge-rusher opposite DeMarcus Lawrence, he should get a fair shot at sticking on the roster or the practice squad as a project.
Hamilton is a Texas native, and playing for the Cowboys fulfills a dream. He was written up recently at the mothership.
The Good: He’s exactly where he wants to be. Stemming from Corrigan, Texas, Hamilton’s family grew up fans of the Dallas Cowboys and he even mentioned at the NFL Combine how special it would be to play for this organization. On the field, he is a speed-first edge rusher that aims to beat you off the edge with his legs before bringing the swim and chop from a powerful set of arms. Hamilton’s straight-line speed definitely helps build the foundation that can push his ceiling at the next level. He is still an ascending player that was much cleaner and efficient in his senior season than the previous three.
The Project: Not as much bend and agility as you would like to see at the defensive end spot. He’s versatile and athletic to a point, but the change of direction and ability to get off the line of scrimmage are limiting his potential at the professional level. A thick build adds to some of the inconsistency that is shown on tape. There were times in college that he would disappear for a couple plays at a time before making an impact again.
The thing that I noticed about Hamilton the most was his willingness to take on and go right at some of the biggest and strongest blockers on the field, doing so with great success. At 6-foot-2 and over 260 pounds, Hamilton is no slouch himself, but he has the ability to stand up tackles and guards and not let them move him back one bit.
This strength and power allow him to be a great edge setter in the run game and an effective bull rusher on passing downs. He doesn’t show quite the get off and bend that you look for in a typical ideal edge rusher, but Hamilton gets the job done with grit and will.
A very fiery player with a high motor, Hamilton plays to the whistle snap after snap, always chasing the ball. He excels when stunting and lined up at various spots across the defensive line in some interesting fronts employed by North Texas.
Without preseason games and a full, padded training camp, it’s going to be hard for UDFAs to make their presence known. It’s just a rough year to try and catch on to a team as an UDFA. Additionally, the Cowboys have a ton of guys competing for a defensive end spot behind DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford and Aldon Smith. You got Dorance Armstrong, Joe Jackson, Jalen Jelks and Bradlee Anae all in the mix. Not to mention the aforementioned Ron’Dell Carter. Hamilton will have to do something special to force his way on to the roster, but just getting to the practice squad would be an accomplishment.