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Dallas Cowboys mailbag: Concerns for linebacker and wide receiver depth

People have questions about the Cowboys, and we strive to provide the answers.

Indianapolis Colts v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Every week, we will be taking questions on Twitter and Facebook about Dallas Cowboys players and other questions surrounding the team. So let’s get right into it.

“Do we put all our hope in the young linebackers to take the next step (Clark, Cox, Overshown), as well as the health of LVE. Or do the Cowboys look for a veteran addition at the position like Anthony Barr last year?

(Submitted by @ESchunho via Twitter)

Mike - The linebackers for Dallas look to be the weakest position group on defense, so to be anxious about the position is understandable. The plan for now will be for the coaches to see what they have at training camp before making any sort of decision to scout the free agent market for a player. Regardless, the position right now does look light and could do with more depth. That doesn’t mean they don’t have faith or concerns in the players they have. Leighton Vander Esch was a solid player last year and bringing in Johnathan Hankins up front helped him last year, so you would think the addition of Mazi Smith will also help. Jabril Cox still has questions due to the injury, but when healthy has a shot. As for Damone Clark, I think he’s going to take the next step and be the guy making all the plays that come his way. Don’t take your eye off rookies Isaiah Land and Tyrus Wheat either, they can make the team’s final roster if they flash enough.

Brandon - I think the linebacker position this year is like when your mom told you to clean up your room and you proceed to stuff everything in the closet—you hope no one notices and can address the problem some other time. The Cowboys have one of the youngest linebacker corps I can remember, which could be a good thing. It’s full of potential and could bring a lot of speed to Dan Quinn’s defense. However, Leighton Vander Esch and Damone Clark have a visible injury history that limits confidence in playing 17 games.

Don’t be surprised if they get halfway through training camp and re-sign someone like Anthony Barr to bring more depth. Barr knows the defense and wanted to take time to decide on his NFL future like last season. It would be an easy fit for a need.

“What’s going to happen with Jalen Tolbert? Will he exceed expectations?

(Submitted by @pjsheu via Twitter)

Mike - By all accounts so far he’s looked good. This is of course just OTA’s and minicamp so I’m still holding back on opening the champagne just yet. When we look at the lack of playing time he got last season, and then the little playing time he did get when he looked uninspiring, Tolbert being someone highly involved on this offense would take a massive jump. I think a reasonable aim for Tolbert this year will be to provide targets in the event of injury, but he’s not pushing for the WR4 position just yet. Do I hope he does? Yes of course. I just think for Tolbert to be high in the pecking order for targets behind the top three receivers is way too much of a jump.

Brandon - Jalen Tolbert is on his way to having more of an impact than last season. He’s put in the work this offseason with Dak Prescott on and off the field. That usually goes a long way in a player’s development.

When speaking to the media this offseason, Prescott mentioned Cedrick Wilson as someone Tolbert reminded him of when he took a similar leap in 2021. If things click for the second-year receiver in training camp, it’s almost a lock for him in 2023 to be the team’s No. 4 on the depth chart.

“Which veterans are on the bubble or certain to be cut?

(Submitted by Jossy Farries via Facebook)

Mike - The first name I can think of is Neville Gallimore. He’s just struggled from the start at Dallas and last year was low in terms of his production and execution on the defense. They wanted him to be a pass rushing 3-tech in the rotation but he hasn’t been that at. When he’s been on the field and asked to defend the run he’s failed to anchor or redirect the play back into traffic. So he’s struggled to create pressure and hold up against the run. He’s had flashes and moments where he’s looked good and he begins to fill you with hope, but then the next play he looks lost. He was ranked 10th worst by PFF grades for defense (36.4) and seventh worst for run defensive grade (29.7). With this defense looking to stopping the run this year, it leaves little patience for Gallimore to try and compete for a position.

Brandon - An obvious answer would be Jabril Cox. It’s strange to call him a veteran player because injuries have limited his ability to get on the field. He’s played in just 16 games during his first two seasons in Dallas, mostly on special teams. With the Cowboys drafting DeMarvion Overshown and having Devin Harper from last year’s class, Cox could be competing against himself in training camp, where if he doesn’t perform well, they’ll bring someone in from another team or free agency.

Poll Of The Week: Finally on the Mailbag, we asked which tight end will score the most touchdowns for Dallas this year. Here are the results and our take on the poll.

Mike - I was thinking this would end a close call between Jake Ferguson and Luke Schoonmaker, but there’s a lot love still for Hendershot. It’s more than likely Ferguson takes the starting tight end position at the start of the season which will help him get ahead in touchdown totals this year. Who the TE1 is by December will be interesting to see. Hendershot being ahead of Schoonmaker in touchdowns is also plausible when you think how much burst and speed he plays with and is a player that can run seam routes or get out to the flat quickly in the red zone. Schoonmaker does have some good receiving skills that are being under appreciated, just keep an eye on that when he gets the chance to catch some throws.

Brandon - Given his work this offseason, Jake Ferguson would be the assumed TE1 entering 2023. If he’s no. 1 on the depth chart, it should add to having the most touchdowns. However, Mike McCarthy has discussed getting every tight end involved in the offense. The dark horse leader for touchdowns could be Hendershot, given the dynamic route running he showed in spots last year. His touchdowns could also come as a runner, like the play he scored on in the Thanksgiving game against the New York Giants. One player might not have ten touchdowns from this group, but each could have three a piece, with the leader having four.

Be sure to check Blogging The Boys as well as @kenfigkowboy and @brandoniswrite on Twitter and also Facebook for the weekly post, asking for your questions to include in the weekly mailbag. Also, check for the Poll of The Week on Twitter. Many thanks to everyone that sends in your questions and votes.

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