For years, the Cowboys lack of overall talent at linebacker has always come back to bite them at some point in a season. Up until the Cowboys spent valuable draft resources on both Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, the Cowboys defense went as far as Sean Lee (and his health) was able to take them. Now with one of, if not the best, starting linebacker trios in the NFL, all the attention will be turned to the depth at the linebacker position.
With little concerns about the ability of the big three when healthy, there may be some concerns about who the Cowboys have as their fourth, fifth, and possibly even sixth man at the linebacker position. While there are plenty of bodies in the LB room, the amount of experience and ability could be a cause for concern if something is to happen to one of Smith, Vander Esch, or Lee.
Veteran Joe Thomas has the most experience in the room having played in the league since 2015. In those four years, Thomas has raked up 91 total tackles, in eight starts. Thomas spent the majority of his time with the Green Bay Packers before being traded to the Cowboys before the start of the 2018 season. Thomas played just 58 defensive snaps (5.66%) last season for the Cowboys, but did see 138 special team snaps (33.17%) in the 2018 season. Thomas missed six games in 2018 due to a foot injury, but could be a key depth piece in 2019 thanks to his versatility at the linebacker position.
Justin March-Lillard would have the second-most experience in the linebacker room behind Thomas. March-Lillard has been with the team since 2017, and has made a positive impact on the team, serving as one of the teams best special teamers in back-to-back years. On defense though, March-Lillard has struggled to see the field getting just eight snaps on defense in 2018 (.78%). While March-Lillard has the experience and abilities on special teams, he has yet to show much on the defensive side of the ball to earn the trust of the coaching staff.
Chris Covington, a 2018 sixth-round draft pick, is a young guy the defensive coaches seem to be really excited about. Listed at 6’2” 245 lbs, Covington has the size, speed, and length to be a force at the linebacker position. But coming into the league, many were worried about his instincts, tackling abilities, and coverage skills as a three-down linebacker at the next level. In his rookie season, Covington registered just one defensive snap, but did see 28 special teams snaps. Covington will likely see a larger workload in training camp and preseason to see if he’ll be able to earn a roster spot, or if the search for a sixth linebacker will start.
With the remaining options likely being undrafted free agent rookies, or practice squad guys from last year, the three guys listed above are likely going to be in the mix for the final depth pieces in 2019. Knowing what we know, what is your overall feeling on the depth of the Cowboys linebackers heading into training camp?