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JJT's inside linebacker evaluation

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JJT coughs up a Cowboys article for The Sporting News. I wonder how much he gets paid for that little side gig? Part of the article is a mini inside linebacker review.

The Cowboys want LB Bradie James to become more of a force on first and second downs, so they're probably going to replace him on their nickel package this season in hopes that he can focus on stopping the run on first and second downs. The team thinks he struggled in pass defense in the second half of the season, in part, because he was a three-down player.

{snip}

LB Akin Ayodele impressed the Cowboys with his all-around ability last year and they're hoping he will be even better this season. Playing as the weakside inside linebacker, Ayodele was one of the Cowboys' most productive players. He's physical at the point of attack and willingly takes on blockers, a must in the 3-4 defense. But he's also versatile enough to be a good pass defender. Don't be shocked if the Cowboys use him more as a pass rusher this season in new coach Wade Phillips' scheme because Ayodele played defensive end in college and Dallas might want to take advantage of those abilities this season.

If you read my inside linebacker review yesterday, you’ll know I have no arguments with JJT’s conclusions. He’s right on about both players. In fact, I wish I’d have mentioned Ayodele playing end in college as further justification of my idea that the Phillips 34 will make a playmaker out of him.

JJT opines on why the Cowboys like Crayton so much - he has great hands and is a very good blocker in the run game. He also mentions Crayton as a reliable punt returner. OK, technically he’s right, Crayton fields the ball cleanly almost every time. But he’s more of an automated fair catch: he’ll catch it, but he ain’t going anywhere.