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Cowboys’ Neville Gallimore is the rare defensive tackle who’s defined by his speed

Retired defensive end Stephen White explains why Neville Gallimore can be a good trump card for the Dallas defense.

An illustration of NFL DL prospect Neville Gallimore at Oklahoma, superimposed on a blue and white background with “SCOUTING” and “X”s and “O”s in neon yellow lettering
Oklahoma’s Neville Gallimore is an intriguing interior defensive lineman in the 2020 NFL Draft.

The Dallas Cowboys selected Neville Gallimore with the 82nd overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Here’s what Stephen White had to say about Gallimore ahead of the draft.

Speed is a funny thing.

You have some fast guys who run so effortlessly they just seem to glide along the top of the grass.

And then there’s Neville Gallimore.

Big homie looks like he is straining to get every ounce of speed out of those thicc legs of his on every play. In fairness, the guy is 6’2 and over 300 pounds, and he could probably smoke you in the 40-yard dash without breaking a sweat.

I would’ve said he could smoke “us,” but I’d never be stupid enough to race this kid after watching him chase down plays on tape.

I’m used to focusing a lot on a player’s speed when it comes to talking about wide receivers, but it’s a somewhat new experience when discussing a defensive tackle. However, his speed is pretty much Gallimore’s defining characteristic as a football player. It’s definitely the thing that jumped off the screen to me while watching his tape from Oklahoma. Gallimore’s ability to accelerate to the quarterback after coming off a block is actually better than a lot of edge rushers I’ve broken down over the years.

Yeah, it was pretty cool to see him post a sub-4.8-second 40 time at the combine, something very rare for a 300-pounder. But I’m telling you, his game speed was even more impressive than that.

What Gallimore does well: He hustles

Combine Gallimore’s wheels with his great effort on most plays, and what you have is a player who can make plays even when things aren’t perfect.

Let’s be real, not all sacks come from a neat process of guys defeating a blocker and then taking the quarterback down. In fact, a lot of times it’s the guy who is stuck on a block initially who ends up getting the sack after his teammates who did win their one-on-one matchups flush the quarterback right to him.

I want to be clear that Gallimore is the kind of player who can get a ton of sacks just by winning his individual matchups. But with him being so fast, he’s always going to end up with a few “extra” sacks and pressures just off hustling to the ball and mashing the gas once he sees a quarterback trying to escape out of the pocket.

I was particularly impressed with how quickly Gallimore could loop around the edge on pass-rush games. It’s like a cheat code having a defensive tackle who can cut the corner like that. One second the quarterback is trying to avoid the edge rusher coming inside; the next thing he knows, Gallimore is coming around outside to lower the boom on him.

They just don’t grow guys that size who are that fast on trees, and that makes him a damn good trump card for any defensive coordinator in the NFL.

What Gallimore does well: Creating pressure

In addition to that speed, Gallimore showed some strong pass-rush moves. He has a good-to-great get-off, is active and violent with his hands, and his lateral quickness was top-notch. That allowed Gallimore to get quite a bit of pressure even though he primarily lined up as a nose tackle, either head up or in a one-technique, for the four games I watched. That isn’t what I would call normal.

Every once in a while he would also break out a nice spin move that would’ve probably been a lot more successful if the guys assigned to block Gallimore weren’t always getting help.

I don’t know about the rest of Oklahoma’s defensive line because I wasn’t focused on them, but I kept wondering how Gallimore was forcing so many double-teams and chip blocks, yet he would still seem to be about the only guy who could generate consistent pressure. Of course, Oklahoma using three-man rushes way too much (one time is too many) didn’t help.

I mean, Gallimore was legit triple-teamed on one play, after beating the first two offensive linemen he faced with a spin move, and then a quick arm-over, respectively. He still managed to force the quarterback off the spot before the third guy could block his path, but then the quarterback took off and gained positive yards on third-and-long.

Did he get a sack or pressure on that play?


But if you don’t think that was still an outstanding play by him, you and I are not the same.

Hell, I saw Oklahoma use Gallimore as a spy a time or two, something that is usually more reserved for edge rushers or linebackers these days. But Gallimore is fast and athletic enough to do that effectively against even some of the shiftier quarterbacks in the league.

With the traditional “pocket passer” just about a thing of the past, the more speed you can get on the field to match up with these newfangled dual-threat quarterbacks, the better. You also won’t have to worry about subbing a defensive tackle like Gallimore out in those passing situations, especially in two-minute situations.

Where Gallimore can improve: His technique

Having said that, there are some issues about Gallimore’s game that I have concerns about.

The biggest of them all is that he plays too high way too often. He’s a strong guy, but the saying “low man wins” exists for a reason. When Gallimore comes off with good pad level, he is usually able to penetrate into the backfield, or at the very least hold his ground.

When he comes off the ball trying to do an arm-over right away, however, it’s too easy for average offensive linemen to push him around. I know Gallimore can make a bunch of plays behind the line of scrimmage, but he may end up being a feast-or-famine guy who is a liability on some running plays if he doesn’t tighten that up.

Sometimes Gallimore exposes his chest a little too much when he is trying do an arm-over move, whether against the run or pass. I know a lot of defensive line coaches teach “long levers” and they want their charges to reach out and try to swat the offensive lineman’s shoulders. I don’t really agree with that unless the guy has abnormally long arms (Gallimore’s are a respectable 32.75 inches long, but nothing special) and is uncommonly strong (nah).

My reasoning is if you are going to expose your chest to offensive linemen that way on a semi-regular basis, your arms had better be a lot longer than theirs so you can make contact with their shoulder before their punch makes contact with your chest. Also, when your club move does make it to his shoulder, you had better be heavy-handed enough to shock him with the force of the blow.

Otherwise you are going to end up going sideway involuntarily, especially against the better offensive linemen.

In Gallimore’s case, all too often he was getting caught in his chest when he was trying to use his club and he would end up getting knocked out of his own lane. That means not only was he off course, but he might’ve potentially gotten in one of his teammates’ way.

I believe those issues are fixable, but it’s probably going to take some time to get him out of bad habits, and playing too high is one of the worst habits you can have as a primarily interior defensive lineman.

Where Gallimore can improve: Being more versatile

I also wonder about Gallimore’s versatility. I love the thought of him as a three-technique, and I could see him pass rushing from time to time on early downs as a five-technique. On the other hand, he just didn’t strike me as the kind of sturdy run defender you’d want as a nose tackle in the NFL. If a team wants to stunt him a lot, maybe, but other than that I just don’t know how it would work out.

Of course, every team could use another good interior pass rusher, and Gallimore is definitely that, even if his pad level is inconsistent. I just don’t think he is quite as scheme adaptable as the other interior defensive linemen I’ve broken down so far, Derrick Brown and Javon Kinlaw. I didn’t see Gallimore using very many power rush moves at all. He was always either on an edge or going laterally.

I don’t know if you can get away with being a finesse interior pass rusher all the time. At some point the better guards will just start jump-setting you until you prove you are strong enough to run through their chest. Which isn’t to say Gallimore couldn’t be a good power rusher, because he has the leg drive and he at least appears to have the upper-body strength to get good push. But it might be something he has to work in early on.

Nevertheless, I can’t stress enough how much potential Gallimore has with all that athleticism. I would bet on him improving his technique as a pro, especially because he goes so hard all the time on the field. He strikes me as a guy who isn’t afraid to put the work in, so the payoff would be worth the risk, as far as I’m concerned.

Gallimore’s NFL future: First-round potential

He may never be as well-rounded of a defensive lineman as Brown or Kinlaw, but I see Gallimore as different kind of player than those guys, and he will have the opportunity to dominate in his own way in the league. I mean a guy that fast, who already has some decent moves?

I could see him being the most productive pass rusher out of the group three years down the road. And, let’s be honest here, we all know that’s what most fans are going to judge these picks on — sacks and pressures. Mostly sacks, no matter how wrong-headed that is in general.

At the end of the day that’s not really what matters for teams, however. What does matter is what he can bring to their scheme. If a team is looking for a big-time two-gapping run stopper, I don’t think Gallimore is going to be their guy. But I also don’t know why you would look for a run-stopping nose tackle in the first round, anyway.

On the other hand, if a team is looking for a guy who can come in and at least provide some juice inside on third-and-long right away, most teams could do a lot worse than Gallimore.

Let me reiterate, he is going to be a guy who makes a few extra plays a game just off his athleticism, whether he improves his technique or not. You simply can’t have enough players like that on your team, especially with all these athletic quarterbacks in the NFL right now. That’s why I see him going early on in the first round, maybe somewhere around the middle at the latest.

I can’t wait to see if at least one team agrees with my assessment.

Be sure to check out my other scouting reports on Chase Young, Jerry Jeudy, Derrick Brown, Jedrick Wills Jr., A.J. Epenesa, CeeDee Lamb, Javon Kinlaw, Mekhi Becton, Terrell Lewis, and Henry Ruggs III.

For the purposes of this breakdown, I watched Gallimore play against Texas, Iowa State, Baylor in the Big 12 Championship Game, and LSU in the College Football Playoff semifinal.