Recently on the Blogging The Boys YouTube Channel we discussed which position groups are most likely to disappoint the Dallas Cowboys in 2020. As much as we want everything to go well, odds are that something won’t live up to our likely-too-high expectations.
If we rewound the clock a year and asked you the same question there is no way that you would have been able to say two positions: offensive line and linebacker. The Cowboys’ offensive line has obviously been near the top of the league for some time, but a year ago we were all of the mindset that they had perhaps the best linebacking group in the National Football League. Things did not exactly bear out that way.
Jaylon Smith’s performance didn’t exactly make everyone feel great about the contract extension that the Cowboys gave him prior to the season starting. Leighton Vander Esch wasn’t as disappointing individually, but some of that was he was hurt. While that wasn’t his fault, that in itself was definitely disappointing.
Vander Esch is entering his third season with the Cowboys and there are many people hoping that he can find the form that he had throughout his rookie season. There is thought that he might, and there is hope that he will do even more than that.
NFL.com named Leighton Vander Esch as the key “homegrown” player for the Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys have been one of the better drafting teams in the NFL for some time now, and they’ve done especially well in the first round. CeeDee Lamb presents an opportunity for that trend to continue, but the last first-round pick the team made will be hard to top in terms of rookie production. That’s how special Leighton Vander Esch was in 2018.
NFL.com listed key “homegrown” players for every team entering this season, as in players that the teams drafted and have had since, and chose Leighton Vander Esch for the Dallas Cowboys.
The Cowboys are a rare team in which off-ball linebackers feel like the key to the entire defense. Vander Esch was a revelation as a rookie, feeding off Jaylon Smith to make them one of the best duos in football. Vander Esch was only healthy for nine games last year, underwent neck surgery and watched his buddy Smith take a big step back. This feels like Sean Lee’s career all over again, with the Cowboys being a totally different team when Vander Esch is on the field. LVE has an even higher ceiling than peak Lee if healthy, but neck injuries are far more worrisome than any nagging hamstring.
For what it’s worth, in this same exercise last year NFL.com named Michael Gallup as the key “homegrown” player for the Cowboys and he had quite the year for the team. Unfortunately, to this point in the health department, LVE does feel like his predecessor and current backup, Sean Lee.
If the Cowboys are going to be successful in 2020, then they are likely going to need Leighton Vander Esch to play very well. Their top three picks from that draft (Vander Esch, Gallup, and Connor Williams in the second) are all going to be relied in a big way. It’s time for the year threes to all take the next step.