Once upon a time the annual All-Under 25 Team from NFL.com would feature the sterling trio of offensive linemen that played for the Dallas Cowboys. Unfortunately time moves on, things change, and people get older.
It is the year 2020 and NFL.com has put out their latest All-Under 25 Team. There is no Tyron Smith, no Zack Martin, and no Travis Frederick. If you believe that Dak Prescott and/or Amari Cooper deserve consideration for the list, they are also both north of the quarter century mark which renders them ineligible. Rules are rules.
The Dallas Cowboys happen to have one of the younger teams in the NFL but they no longer have some of the best players in the NFL at their respective positions all at such a young age. How many do you think made the list this year? You’ve likely read the headline here so I won’t waste any time, the answer is one.
NFL.com named Leighton Vander Esch to their All-Under 25 Team
If you are considering players on the Cowboys that are among the best at their positions and are under the age of 25, then there aren’t a ton of options to choose from. Thankfully there is someone in the middle of the defense that fits the qualifications.
Leighton Vander Esch lost a bit of luster in the eyes of some as he missed more time than anybody would have liked last season. That didn’t stop NFL.com from showing him some respect in this particular category.
Vander Esch struggled through a painful neck injury last season, but no doubt lingers over his ceiling when healthy. A force-of-nature Pro Bowl selection as a rookie in 2018, the Cowboys’ first-rounder piled up 140 tackles, two picks and six pass breakups. Two seasons ago feels like the early 1970s, but it’s a crime to forget Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith shrinking the field as sideline-to-sideline wizards. We’ll be reminded again come kickoff.
There are a lot of reasons to believe that Vander Esch can return to the form of his rookie season, but many Cowboys fans still have scars from longing for Sean Lee to remain healthy. Vander Esch has enormous potential he simply needs to have the opportunity to realize it.
Mike Nolan is the new defensive coordinator for the Cowboys and according to Ron Slavin, Vander Esch’s agent, had an affinity for LVE while he was the linebackers coach with the New Orleans Saints. A defense that will hopefully be more aggressive should marry well with Vander Esch’s skillset.