Through the first five weeks of the 2021 season Jabril Cox has played a total of eight defensive snaps since joining the Dallas Cowboys as their fourth-round pick this year. Considering the depth at the position his lack of playing time isn’t all that surprising, but there is reason to believe that could change in the not-too-distant future.
We all knew changes were coming to the Cowboys linebacker position after they decided to release Jaylon Smith last week. But we didn’t know, and probably still don’t, is how the snaps will be divvied up at the position moving forward. For now, it looks as if it could be a week-to-week adjustment based on the opponent, but that has probably yet to be decided.
Considering the Cowboys depth at linebacker right now, even after the release of Jaylon Smith, it’s difficult to gauge exactly where Jabril Cox fits in the mix. On paper he’s fourth on the depth chart behind Micah Parsons, Leighton Vander Esch, and Keanu Neal. In the Giants game, Parsons played on 93% of the defensive snaps, Neal was in on 50% and Vander Esch 46%. Cox was only in on 6% of the defensive snaps, but as the LB4, he’s a snap of the fingers away from seeing a significant bump and playing time.
Thankfully it’s looking as if the fourth-round rookie is more than up to the task. He may have just played a total of four defensive snaps against the New York Giants Sunday afternoon, but one of those was a very consequential play that altered the outcome of the game.
On a goal line stand by the Cowboys, Cox showed his physicality and athleticism getting off a Kyle Rudolph block, and showed his speed/range to tackle Daniel Jones on what looked to be a walk-in touchdown. Sadly, as impressive as No. 14 was on this TD-saving play, it was overshadow by the fact the Giants starting QB had to exit the game early due to a concussion.
Injuries, of course, are part of the game, but it’s always disturbing when they happen, especially head injuries/concussions like this one. Hopefully Daniel Jones has a speedy recovery and doesn’t have any lingering effects, but it’s hard to fault Cox on this. Jones is the player that actually lowers the crown of the helmet, Cox did not try to injure him, instead it was a standard tackle from his end.
Regardless, Cox showed off the skills that he hopes will result in an increase in playing time. He’s the “new age” kind of LB teams covet nowadays. His unique skill set to play sideline-to-sideline, whether it’s in the running or passing game, should create ample opportunities to prove himself moving forward. That could happen as soon as next week against the New England Patriots, but more likely after Week 7 when the Cowboys have their bye week to examine and reassess things.
It’s going to be really interesting to see how much Cox is involved defensively moving forward. It may take an unfortunate injury to earn him a starting role this year, but it could be his job to lose as soon as next year with both Leighton Vander Esch and Keanu Neal in contract years. Whatever the case, he and Micah Parsons look to be the future at the position.