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Stephen Jones: Cowboys linebacker Jabril Cox likely to “fill right in where Keanu [Neal] left off”

The Cowboys have a role in mind for the second-year linebacker coming off an ACL tear.

Carolina Panthers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Michael Gallup isn’t the only player the Cowboys are counting on to bounce back from an ACL tear in a big way this season. Speaking at the NFL’s owners meetings, Stephen Jones provided a positive update on second-year linebacker Jabril Cox, reportedly making great progress in his rehab.

Jones sees Cox stepping into the Keanu Neal role for Dan Quinn’s defense. Neal is still a free agent, but one that wants to revert back to safety, where the Cowboys have made their moves with Malik Hooker and Jayron Kearse back under contract.

The Cowboys are counting on this upcoming draft to fill some obvious roster holes, but less glaring needs should be addressed by young players from last year’s draft stepping up. We projected what Cox’s role could look like in 2022 when covering all six of the draft picks from a year ago that took a rookie “redshirt” year.

Jabril Cox was unfortunately lost for the season to an ACL tear in October, putting an end to a rookie campaign that began with plenty of hype. Cox was considered one of the steals of this draft as a member of LSU’s 2020 national championship team.

Again, the Cowboys were able to use a free agent signing to provide depth without Cox, as Keanu Neal was a contributor along with Parsons at linebacker this season. This is still a position that needs another reliable starter, possibly a veteran presence to work with their young talent.

Cox may be another scheme fit under Quinn, but it’s unlike the Cowboys to hand a starting role to a player with almost no experience. The Cowboys upgrading the interior of their defensive line would go a long way in finding more snaps for Cox, helping him make plays against the run. With the athleticism to match tight ends and running backs in the passing game, there’s a clear role for Cox moving into year two, but just how much the Cowboys will depend on him remains to be seen.

The Cowboys brought back Leighton Vander Esch and Luke Gifford to provide experience at the position, but their current depth chart lacks the same athleticism that made this defense a pleasant surprise this past season. If Cox is truly coming along as well as the Cowboys say, his range and burst would be a welcome sight under Quinn, pushing linebacker further down the list of draft needs.