The Dallas Cowboys have had their OTA’s and minicamp, and the next stop is training camp. Before you know it the 2018 season will be kicking off. With that in mind, I will be breaking down the roster by position. Today we will take a look at the Linebackers.
The success of the defense will depend heavily on the play of the linebackers. More specifically the play and health of Sean Lee. When talking about the Cowboys linebackers or their defense in general, you have to start with Sean Lee. He is the leader and the best player. The defense goes as he goes. Last season Dallas was 8-3 when Lee was on the field. They were 1-4 in the games he missed. You could make the argument that Sean Lee is not just the most important player on the Cowboys defense, but he may just be the most valuable player on the entire roster.
The Cowboys realize how important Lee is. They also realize the depth at linebacker last season was embarrassing. That’s the reason they spent a first-round draft pick on Leighton Vander Esch, the LB out of Boise State. The Cowboys believe Vander Esch will be a contributor from day one. They also believe he can save the defense from collapsing if and/or when Sean Lee misses games with injuries. Vander Esch has compared himself to Lee when talking about his style of play. The Cowboys hope that Vander Esch is the next Sean Lee, they just hope he’s a healthier version.
Speaking of health, that brings us to the final and perhaps the most intriguing of the linebackers who are expected to have a major impact. When the Cowboys used a second-round pick on Jaylon Smith in the 2016 draft, many fans and media thought it was a horrible pick. There were people who doubted that Smith would ever play in the NFL due to the nerve damage in his leg that he suffered as a result of a devastating injury in his final collegiate game. Smith proved the doubters wrong by playing last season, albeit while wearing a brace on his leg which limited him. Prior to the injury, Smith was viewed as a top-five player in the draft and generational type talent. However, people would argue that he’d never be that player as long as he had to wear that brace. Well, this offseason Smith has been practicing without the brace. He says the nerve is regenerating and he is feeling stronger every day. Smith believes he can be as good or better as he was in college.
There’s isn’t much depth behind the big three at LB. The only veteran on the roster is Damien Wilson. So the key will be health. They need the trio of Smith, Vander Esch, and Lee to stay on the field. It is definitely a big if, but if the trio does stay healthy Dallas might just have the best trio of linebackers in the entire NFL.
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