The Cowboys linebacker position has been a disaster in 2020. Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch have both been extremely disappointing on the field, and reserves Joe Thomas and Sean Lee have struggled staying healthy and haven’t been productive when on the field.
So where’s that leave rookie linebacker Francis Bernard, a training camp standout that really hasn’t gotten an opportunity on defense so far in 2020. Bernard, so far in 2020, has seen seven defensive snaps, and all of them came in week five against the Giants. With Leighton Vander Esch likely to miss the Eagles game, that leaves Sean Lee to fill in for Vander Esch with Joe Thomas in reserve.
Joe Thomas and Sean Lee likely won’t be back in 2021, so why not give these reps to Francis Bernard who impressed in training camp, had a very good career at Utah, and could potentially be the better linebacker than the ones likely to play ahead of him on the depth chart.
In 2020, Joe Thomas is graded as the league’s 69th linebacker out of 89th total candidates with a 47.5 PFF grade. Sean Lee hasn’t played enough snaps to be ranked, but has a PFF grade of 28.3. Just for comparison sake, Jaylon Smith is PFF’s 42nd ranked linebacker with a PFF grade of 56.9, and Leighton Vander Esch is the 64th graded linebacker with a PFF grade of 50.6. While Bernard hasn’t played enough defensive snaps to be ranked, they did grade those seven snaps, and it worked out to a PFF grade of 67.1, the highest of all the Cowboys linebackers.
This isn’t to suggest that Bernard should take over for Smith or Vander Esch, but Bernard will be on the roster heading into 2021, and if he can prove himself over the next two games, that could lighten the load for the need of a linebacker in 2021 draft. If Bernard can play, this team needs to find that out, and what better way to do so than playing him in the final two games that more than likely won’t mean a whole much for an injured starter at the linebacker position.
Give him a chance.