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Markquese Bell and his remarkable conversion from safety to linebacker

Markquese Bell is having an incredible season for the Cowboys

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NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Chargers Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys had an interest in Markquese Bell before the 2022 NFL Draft as he was one of their Top 30 visits. However, they didn't actually pick him, instead they scooped him up as an undrafted free agent. Bell, then a safety, would only see 22 defensive snaps as a rookie (80 special teams snaps), but that has changed in 2023.

Bell was mainly getting snaps in the hybrid linebacker/coverage specialist role initially intended for DeMarvion Overshown this season, but with the injury to Leighton Vander Esch, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn began using Bell as a starter at linebacker. At first, with Bell's slender frame at 203 pounds, it was a big question mark on how effective he could be playing primarily in the box. So far, he’s ringing the proverbial bell.

Going into Week 9, Bell has logged 197 snaps with 163 coming in the box as a linebacker. Bell has a defensive grade of 90.0 so far in 2023, according to Pro Football Focus, the best for all linebackers. His 89.7 coverage grade ranks fifth at the position, and his 75.3 run defense grade is 22nd. Bell has also logged 14 snaps in the slot, six as an outside cornerback, and seven on the defensive line.

One of the key aspects of Bell having such a good season is that the game seems to come to him a lot quicker in Year 2. His average tackle depth is 2.1 yards, which means he's seeing things and reacting very quickly. Bell has been an extremely efficient tackler as well, having only missed one so far.

Bell has all the measurables Quinn likes in a defensive back. However, his ability to navigate sideline to sideline and shoot gaps with speed has turned him into an effective player in the box at the linebacker spot. Kudos to the mastermind Quinn for finding another gem and is now developing him into a stud.

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