The Dallas Cowboys picked up a linebacker in the sixth round from Indiana, Chris Covington. His was not a name associated with the Cowboys on many draft boards so it was kind of a surprise for Cowboys fans.
Dallas entered the 2018 draft thin at linebacker but addressed the urgent need for a quality addition to the position unit by drafting Leighton Vander Esch with the team’s first-round pick. Still, even with LVE joining Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith, the team’s depth at the position was questionable. Thus, the decision to add Chris Covington with the team’s sixth-round pick (#193 overall).
Not only does Covington provide youthful depth at the linebacker spot, he’s also likely to be given multiple special teams opportunities. It’s on special teams where he’s most likely to make an impact for the 2018 Dallas Cowboys.
Covington, along with Vander Esch and edge rusher Dorance Armstrong (fourth round). add three new names to the team’s defensive front-seven depth chart. It should be interesting to see how all the youth will be employed up front.
Covington took a circuitous route to NFL linebacker. He began his college career at Indiana as a quarterback. But ineffectiveness and an ACL injury derailed his quarterbacking aspirations and he eventually moved to linebacker. His senior year was his only real opportunity to prove himself as a linebacker.
He surpassed expectations and turned in an impressive senior season. Covington proved the coaches decision to move him to linebacker was the right one.
Covington piled up 85 tackles, good enough for third on the team. He had 12 tackles for a loss and three sacks, proving to be a constant force in the backfield. Covington penetrated the line of scrimmage with ease using his size and athleticism. He also notched five pass breakups, which was third on the team. Covington’s experience as a quarterback undoubtedly heightened his football IQ as a linebacker. The Hoosiers relied on him as a leader and defensive play-caller at times. He was named IU defensive player of the week three times. Covington’s performance as a senior earned him an honorable mention by coaches and media for the All-Big Ten Team. Perhaps the best evidence of Covington’s impact on the Indiana defense is his IU Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Covington’s athletic abilities likely will enable him to make the roster as a special teams contributor. He’ll need to improve his strength and technique to make the jump to an every down player, according to scouting reports.
Covington is a better athlete than skilled linebacker at this point in his development, but he has intriguing length, speed and athleticism that could be moldable on the next level. He still needs to get stronger and improve his technique, but he could become a special teams factor on coverage teams if he makes the squad. His ability to play in the league may rest upon whether or not he can improve his instincts and feel for blocking schemes.
Still, the decision to draft another linebacker raised some eyebrows among some viewers. Bob Sturm, however, made the case for why the team might go linebacker early in this year’s draft, but in doing so he also made the case for a double-dip at the position:
Hopefully, they then have a successor for Sean Lee someday. But the Cowboys cannot afford to enter this season with Lee, Smith, and hope as their linebacking corps. Last year should have taught us that the biggest collision position on the defense will feature some injuries and that this roster is dangerously thin. Now, without Hitchens, the danger is even more pronounced.
The Cowboys must prepare accordingly.
Van Esch addressed a gaping hole in the team’s roster. Covington provides some depth and the ability to play on special teams.