We’re continuing our countdown to the opening game of the Dallas Cowboys 2023 regular season. Each day we’ll present a new player whose jersey number represents the countdown to opening day. Today is number 46.
Defensive Snaps: 3
Cowboys are signing LB Malik Jefferson to the practice squad, person familiar with move said. Dallas-area native and former Texas Longhorn is staying local after strong preseason. pic.twitter.com/AXwDWvTMA8— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) August 31, 2022
Malik Jefferson joined Texas in 2015 and played as a rotational Mike linebacker in his freshman year. He made 61 tackles, three sacks and an impressive 27 defensive stops on 633 snaps. The next season saw him play a dual role as one of the teams starting linebackers and on special team duties. He suffered with a number of concussions during the season but was still named second-team All-Big 12. He was second for Texas in tackles, tackles for loss and led the team in sacks with 6.5.
The next season Jefferson started all 12 games for the Longhorns. He made 57 defensive stops which was seventh-most nationally and nearly twice as much Poona Ford who had the second-most for Texas. Jefferson also led the team in tackles (110), tackles for loss (10), sacks (4) and pressures (26). He was named first-team All-Big 12. At the end of the season Jefferson declared for the draft.
Bengals select LB Malik Jefferson with the No. 78 pick pic.twitter.com/jfONdrP8BH— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 28, 2018
Jefferson had a pretty good pre-draft process and impressed at both the NFL Combine and Texas’ pro day. Most considered him to be one of the top linebackers in his draft class and some analysts gave him a second-round grade. He was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals and his rookie year saw him play 10 games on defense and special teams before being placed on injured reserve due to a foot injury.
The next year the Bengals waived Jefferson during roster cut downs and the Cleveland Browns picked him up. This would begin his trail around various NFL teams. By mid-season he was cut by the Browns and picked up by the L.A. Chargers who released him before the start of the 2020 season. He spent five days on the Tennessee Titans roster before getting cut and going back to the Chargers only to be sent to IR again. He was briefly with the Indianapolis Colts before getting to Dallas. In 2023 he signed a futures contract with the Cowboys.
Jefferson ticks every box on the eye test when you look at him with the ideal size and build. He has good levels of athleticism and explosiveness needed to play the position, along with good speed to pursue which makes him ideal to play on special teams. His issues are with instincts and extremely inconsistent technique as a defender in virtually all aspects. His slow reactions, poor instincts and bad play recognition puts him down as a rotational player that needs plenty of development. Unfortunately for him, he just hasn’t had that chance being made to travel from team to team. Because he doesn’t have the instincts to play middle linebacker and is undisciplined in space to play weak side linebacker, it makes it tricky to figure where to place him on the field.
However, the linebacker position for Dallas has the most questions when it comes to the defense, so there’s chance if Jefferson can display enough athletically to the coaches he might be able to stick around at least on the practice squad.
The Big Question:
Will Malik Jefferson make the practice squad this year? Answer below.