Countering defensive tackle Trysten Hill’s move to injured reserve, the Cowboys have elevated DT Justin Hamilton from the practice squad. The team also sent quarterback Dak Prescott (ankle surgery) to IR and activated linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, who’s expected to play against Arizona.
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Hamilton was originally signed by Dallas last October. He never appeared in a regular-season game and was released when the club acquired defensive end Michael Bennett from the Patriots. The Cowboys re-signed Hamilton a reserve/futures deal in January.
Background on Hamilton, Projected Role
The 6-foot-2, 315-pound defender entered the league in 2015 as an undrafted free agent picked up by the Buffalo Bills. He was axed at final cuts and had a cup of coffee with the Packers that same year.
He spent 2016 yo-yo-ing between the Seattle Seahawks’ taxi squad and the unemployment line. In 2017, upon joining Philly, Hamilton got his big break, elevated from the practice squad to the active roster. He made three appearances for the Eagles, logging three combined tackles and a half-sack.
The Kansas City Chiefs poached Hamilton in December 2017. He appeared in five Chiefs games (starting one) over the last two seasons before being released last August.
Hamilton played his college ball at Louisiana-Lafayette, where he was a four-year contributor, making 102 career tackles, 29 tackles for loss, and 14 sacks. He earned First Team All-Sun Belt Conference honors as a senior in 2014.
“Hamilton has the size and natural ability to make it at the next level,” his scouting profile reads. “His durability and proven track record of making plays along the line of scrimmage make him a viable NFL talent. If Juice does not hear his name on the final day of the draft, there will be a number of clubs ready to ink Hamilton to a free agent deal.”
Hamilton should help fill the rotational void left by Hill, who suffered a torn ACL during last week’s win over the Giants. Taking a leap forward in his sophomore year, Hill collected six solo tackles and five QB hits on 211 defensive snaps (57.49%) prior to his injury, working in tandem with starting nose man Dontari Poe (207 snaps) and third-round rookie Neville Gallimore (42).
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LVE vs. Kyler?
Not only will Vander Esch suit up for the first time since Week 1 after surgery to repair a fractured collarbone, it appears he’s a central component of Dallas’ defensive gameplan to combat dual-threat Cardinals QB Kyler Murray.
As ESPN’s Ed Werder noted, Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy earlier this week placed an overarching emphasis on containing Murray’s lethal rushing ability by filling the A- and B-gaps. “That puts him in LVE area of responsibility,” Werder said.
Joe Thomas has started in Vander Esch’s stead and performed admirably, but regaining LVE is a major boost for a unit that’s been raked across the coals through five games — on and off the field — ranking dead last in scoring defense, 30th against the run, and 26th in total yards allowed.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL