clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Cowboys news: Dallas linebacking corps just may be best in NFL

New, comments

The Cowboys offense has it’s heavyweights but don’t sleep on the Cowboys defense, which looks ready for a huge 2019 season.

NFL: NFC Wild Card-Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Film room: Why the Dallas Cowboys have the best linebackers in the NFL - John Owning, SportsDay
Many may argue but the film shows that the Dallas Cowboys just might have the best linebackers in the NFL.

In fact, despite playing more than 140 fewer snaps than Luke Kuechly (927 snaps played in 2018) and Bobby Wagner (925) -- who are widely regarded as the two best linebackers in football -- Vander Esch accumulated more tackles and stops than Wagner, finishing a single tackle (114) and seven stops behind Kuechly last season.

Listed at 6-foot-4, 256 pounds with 97th percentile athleticism (among NFL linebackers), according to Three Sigma Athlete, Vander Esch looks like he was built in a lab to play linebacker in the NFL.

In today’s NFL, there are, speaking generally, two archetypes of linebackers. There are the big, downhill thumpers who are extremely effective attacking the run downhill but tend to struggle in coverage and moving laterally. And there are the small, sideline-to-sideline type of linebackers who thrive in coverage and flowing laterally to the ball but tend to struggle to get off blocks and defend downhill runs.

Cowboys LB breakdown: Young dynamic duo leading charge in Dallas - Cole Patterson, Blogging The Boys
The Cowboys have solidified their linebacking corps for many years to come.

Jaylon Smith

At one point in time, Jaylon Smith was viewed as one of the five best players in the 2016 draft class. At another point, many feared that Smith would never play on the gridiron ever again.

Fast forward to three years later, and Jaylon Smith is making an inspiring comeback. Smith sat out his first season due to injury, but has now blossomed into a young star for the Cowboys.

Smith made a whopping 121 stops (82 solo), six TFLs, four sacks, six QB hits, and a pair of forced fumbles in 2018. There is a chance that Smith never reaches his 100% ceiling that he had pre-injury, but if last season was any indication, his stock is on the rise.

Seven Cowboys make an NFL top 100 best players list, three from the defense - Dave Halprin, Blogging The Boys
The Cowboys roster is noted as stocked with talent based on this latest rankings and three of the Cowboys best were on defense.

80 Jaylon Smith

DALLAS COWBOYS MLB

His play was unreal considering what he came back from in terms of that devastating injury in his bowl game in college. Watch out this season.

Dave’s Take: This is interesting, Smith is ranked ahead of Leighton Vander Esch. Cowboys Nation was wowed by the rookie, especially given the controversy over drafting LVE at #19 in 2018 and he became the darling of the defense. But Smith was also incredible, and gets the nod in these rankings.

Kerry Hyder Feeling “At Home” Rushing From Outside - Nick Eatman, DallasCowboys.com
One under the radar signing that may pay dividends for the Cowboys is pass rusher, Kerry Hyder, who is fitting right in on this defensive line.

Bryan Broaddus’ Take: When first signed by the front office, I didn’t give Kerry Hyder much of a thought. He did have some success with the Detroit Lions early in his career then a scheme switch asked him to play a position that didn’t fit his skill set. I was expecting Hyder to line up as an under tackle or three technique but that hasn’t been the case at all. Hyder has primarily been lining up at end and has been disruptive in the way he has gone about his job. He’s been a problem for both the starters and backups to block. Depending on how things shake out at defensive end, he could find himself in the mix with his veteran savvy and pass rushing techniques.

The Best Move Every NFL Team Made This Offseason - Maurice Moton, Bleacher Report
Everyone is a fan of the Cowboys move to get Robert Quinn on their defense.

Dallas Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence will open training camp on the physically unable to perform list because of offseason shoulder surgery. Although the team believes he’ll suit up for Week 1 of the regular season, the two-time Pro Bowler’s recovery timetable remains unclear.

In case Lawrence needs more time to recuperate, the Cowboys will have a serviceable veteran pass-rusher in Robert Quinn. The front office acquired him from the Miami Dolphins in exchange for a 2020 sixth-rounder.

Over the last two seasons, Quinn logged 15 sacks and 18 tackles for loss while only missing one game. Going into his age-29 term, he can still disrupt offenses in the backfield using his power and quickness at the line of scrimmage.

The Cowboys don’t have a ball hawk in the secondary, so their defensive unit must apply pocket pressure to thwart passing attacks. Once Lawrence returns, Dallas will have a strong duo on the ends.

INSIDER: How good can Robert Quinn be for the Dallas Cowboys - Patrik Walker, 247Sports
The Cowboys are looking to field one of the more ferocious defenses in the NFL, Robert Quinn could have quite the impact.

By all accounts, this couldn’t be a better fit for both Quinn and the Cowboys.

A former first-round pick (14th-overall) of the Los Angeles Rams, Quinn played seven seasons with the organization before heading to the Dolphins in March 2018 via trade. It was a cap move for the Rams at the time, with Quinn being on the back end of a six-year deal signed in 2014. He’s had his bumps and bruises over the course of his time in the NFL, but has been mostly durable, having been available for fewer than 15 games only twice in his eight-year career. For a more recent scope on his availability, it’s key to note he’s played in 31 of the Dolphins’ last 32 games — a stellar statistic for one of the most bruising positions in the game.

There’s a bit of underlying concern by the Cowboys on the long-term health of Quinn beyond 2019, and that shows in the lack of an immediate contract extension. All things considered, however, simply agreeing to bring Quinn on for one year added sets the team up for instant impact this coming season while also providing insurance in the event Randy Gregory isn’t reinstated in a few months. With no contract beyond 2019 in tow, the All-Pro has serious motivation to be an absolute force this coming season, and it helps to have another All-Pro in DeMarcus Lawrence manning the opposite edge.

Quinn will be 30 years old in 2020, and he knows this could be his last chance to land a hefty contract.

5 Vendetta games on Dallas Cowboys 2019 schedule - Burke Downer, CowboysWire
The Cowboys face off against familiar foes in 2019 but five teams stand out as a possible revenge game for the team with the stars on their helmets.

Cowboys vs Rams, Week 15

This matchup will have a host of story lines surrounding it once Week 15 arrives. Both the Cowboys and the Rams are expected to be in the playoff mix in 2019, and this late season game may have huge implications for playoff seeding. Jared Goff and Dak Prescott will square off in a battle of 2016 draft class QB’s, Goff the No. 1 overall pick, Prescott the 135th. Perhaps the memory of the 2018 playoffs will be a background thought for the two teams by the time they square off in December, but then again, maybe not.

Dak Prescott is every bit as good as the guys he's being compared to- David Moore, SportsDay
David Moore went to bat for Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott on the latest Dallas Morning news podcast.

“Look at him and compare him to Carson Wentz and Jared Goff who all came in together. And those other two quarterbacks also had periods where they didn’t look as good as Dak. Dak had his period where he didn’t look as good as the other two. But when you step back and look at the numbers overall, he compares very favorably to those guys.

”So, I understand the argument [to not pay Prescott $30+ million a year], but I think it’s really riskier to do it -- if you’re going to make a move at quarterback, you better have a guy in place that you like. And if you don’t have a guy in place that you like and are convinced can do the job, I don’t know that you can just turn over that position because I think that you’re opening yourself up to potentially a pretty long period of searching for that replacement.”

Kevin Sherrington: ”My line about that is quarterbacks are like jobs, you don’t give up one until you’ve got another.”

Why The Dak-Amari Connection Has No Ceiling - Rob Phillips, DallasCowboys.com
With an offseason of work being put in between Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper, there are no limits for their connection.

Most importantly, the Cowboys won seven of their last eight to erase a 3-5 start, clinch the NFC East and reach the NFC divisional playoff round.

All that without the precious offseason reps that comprise a successful passing game partnership. After coming over from Oakland, Cooper was familiar with certain concepts in the Cowboys’ offense but not Prescott’s preferences and tendencies.

“I might know the play but I don’t know how Dak wants to throw it,” Cooper recalled. “I don’t know his thought process on that play. I don’t know his favorite route to throw on that particular play. When you talk about those little things and kind of pick his brain, now I know exactly what he’s thinking.

“Obviously the window was shorter with me coming in being traded. So we kind of had to just get right to it, you know what I mean?”