Football is a meritocracy. Thank you, Tony Romo.
We all know that so much about life in the National Football League is about what you have done lately. If you are not performing, the game has a way of weeding you out, unless you are a player that your team is placating for one reason or another.
Call it what you want, but the Dallas Cowboys have been a bit guilty of favoritism in certain departments over the years. Many fans have wanted to see the status quo challenged all over the team in the name of competition yielding the best players at every position.
Linebacker is certainly one of the more crowded parts of the roster with two first-round picks in recent memory and a second contract all hanging out in the room. Micah Parsons has shown a lot to be impressed by thus far in the preseason and newbie Keanu Neal is making his presence known.
Time will tell how the Cowboys ultimately handle Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, but it seems like a relegation of sorts is inevitable. If you are not a starting linebacker in the NFL you are going to ultimately have to contribute somewhere else and it appears that the team is readying for that potential reality. Smith and Vander Esch are both going to potentially see some action on special teams.
Look for Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch to get snaps on special teams— Clarence Hill Jr (@clarencehilljr) August 19, 2021
This tweet is a bit vague and doesn’t totally indicate to what degree the former top pair could be utilized on special teams. However, seeing as they have not been all too involved there before it definitely seems noteworthy.
Consider that since 2018 (the year that Vander Esch was drafted and Smith took a significant step forward) among players who have played at least 100 total snaps for the Cowboys that the two have seen the fewest on special teams.
- 2019 Jaylon Smith: 77 special teams snaps (17.3%, second-fewest on team with distinction)
- 2019 Leighton Vander Esch: 44 special teams snaps (9.9%, fewest on team with distinction)
- 2020 Jaylon Smith: 87 special teams snaps (19.2%, second-fewest on team with distinction)
- 2020 Leighton Vander Esch: 38 special teams snaps (8.4%, fewest on team with distinction)
Again, we have no idea what “seeing them on special teams” even means, but it does feel like a rearranging of things so to speak and if it is then honestly that is great to see.
While the last almost two years have not been great from the team’s linebacker group there weren’t really any options behind them that were preferable. Dallas stocked up this offseason and are now in a position to be able to prioritize accordingly.