FanPost

Off-season Priorities Pt. 7 [Linebackers]

This is the Seventh part of the weekly off-season fan-post in which I evaluate the Dallas Cowboys Off-season Priorities. This week I will be focusing on the Cowboys Linebackers. If you want to check out any of the previous articles published, the links are below.

Archive: Pt. 1 | Pt. 2 | Pt. 3 | Pt. 4 | Pt. 5 | Pt. 6 |

The Dallas Cowboys arguably have one the best young linebacker duo's in the entire NFL. The 49ers Navarro Bowman and Patrick Willis obviously lead the class in both tackles & pro-bowls. However, the Cowboys duo was just beginning to shine when both of their seasons were cut short with rare freak injuries. Bruce was injured in the Thanksgiving game versus the Redskins with a dislocated elbow, and Sean was lost early in the Panthers game with a right big toe injury. Bruce Carter & Sean Lee took huge strides in their second year with Linebacker coach/Assistant defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus coaching them up. Eberflus proved his worth even more when backups Alex Albright & Ernie Sims were forced to start and held their own. I am going to go as far as crediting him for the career year Anthony Spencer had under him. Who is to say Alex Albright does not take that same leap in his second year that Carter and Lee took. As Dallas Cowboy fans, we have the right to be excited for our young duo in the new 4-3 scheme under Kiffin. I have faith that Sean Lee & Bruce Carter can stay healthy enough to keep our Defense in the top 10 and help in extending the season into the playoffs.

Dallas Cowboy Linebackers

Name

Tackles

Interceptions

Forced Fumbles

Sean Lee

58

1

1

Bruce Carter

70

0

0

Dan Connor

57

0

0

Ernie Sims

43

0

0

Alex Albright

31

0

0

Brady Poppinga

12

0

0

As you can see from the graph above, I did not list Anthony Spencer or DeMarcus Ware as a linebacker even though they were OLB in the previous 3-4 scheme. Instead, I listed them as DE's in the post about the defensive line available here. After reviewing the linebackers stats, you can notice that only Sean Lee forced a single turnover all season. The rest of the linebackers failed to force a fumble or receive an interception. I expect this to rise in the new 4-3 scheme under Monte Kiffin where the Will, Mike, & SAM linebackers are play makers & focused on attacking the ball. Below I will explain a little more what exactly these backers do in the 4-3 scheme.

Mike Linebacker:

Projected Starter - Sean Lee

Responsibilities: The Mike linebacker in the 4-3 is the general/leader of the defense. His job is the most important because he has to be fast, instinctive, & make the defensive signals. In the Tampa 2 scheme under Monte Kiffin, he will be relied to drop deep in the middle almost like a 3rd safety & read the QB's eyes. He will also be counted on to make any last minute adjustments & call audibles to keep everyone ready.

Will Linebacker:

Projected Starter - Bruce Carter

Responsibilities: The Will Linebacker in the 4-3 is usually the most athletic & explosive of the trio. His job is to fly to the ball & cause turnovers. Since the Will linebacker does not face as many blocks as the SAM or Mike, he can blitz off the corner on certain downs & attack the ball carrier without facing many obstacles. He will be relied on to create fumbles & finish the job on tackles. He will also cover the slot receiver at times.

Sam Linebacker:

Projected Starter - Alex Albright/Kyle Wilber

Responsibilities: The Sam linebacker in the 4-3 is the most physical one of the three. The Sam lines up on the strong side of the defense & must be ready to take on blocks & disrupt the Tight end on the line of scrimmage. He is relied to win the point of attack & make a play on the ball carrier or at least contain him. However, since tight ends have become more taller & athletic, teams are starting to use the SAM as a 2 down player. To quote Monte Kiffin,

"The quicker the defense, the harder it is for the offense to score."

In Conclusion, while many of us have Alex Albright as the favorite to win the SAM position, this article I read has Kyle Wilber as the favorite to win the job because of his upside. I could see that happening as there is not a lot of depth at the Defensive End position and Albright can play that position. Also, Kyle Wilber has experience playing the 3-4 & 4-3 OLB role in college. The Dallas Cowboys could even have a linebacker they would like to draft for Kiffin. Either way, I'm excited to see our young linebackers play in Monte Kiffin's Tampa 2(Cowboy Duo) Defense. Go Cowboys!

Leave your comments below on who you think the Cowboys should start at the Linebacker position & whether or not they should draft or acquire a linebacker in Free Agency. Thanks for reading. - Moses

Part 8. Will evaluate the Cornerbacks.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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