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Nov 24, 2011; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff (90) , linebacker DeMarcus Ware (94) , Sean Lee (50) and Anthony Spencer (93) against the Miami Dolphins on Thanksgiving day at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

Making a Case to Go Heavy at Linebacker

Last years opening day Dallas Cowboys roster carried 10 offensive linemen. This year’s opening 53-man could reflect a similar situation to last season’s stance on the need to load up at offensive line. One thing however, in 2011 the issue was NEED in association with the o-line and not TALENT, or an over abundance of talent, which could very well be the case going into the season opener on September 5th.

Unlike the 2011 season where need, youth and inexperience across the offensive line trumped all else on the Cowboys roster and barring significant injury to critical positions elsewhere on the team, this year it will likely be overall quality depth and talent that constitutes the case for the Cowboys to head into the season with a linebacker heavy roster.

From left, tight end, James Hanna (84), linebacker, Adrian Hamilton (53), cornerback, Mario Butler (31) and cornerback, Isaac Madison (30) participate in their pre-camp morning practice at Valley Ranch in Irving on July 26, 2012.

The Dallas Cowboys had two linebackers on the practice squad last season that left the team with a viable enough impression to warrant not being cut but instead kept throughout the season. Both Orie Lemon and Isiah Greenhouse may find it much harder this year to make even the practice squad with the influx of talent that the Jerry Jones and company imported onto the roster this off-season.

Could second year outside linebacker Alex Albright be on the bubble as well, when it comes to making the final 53-man roster? If not which young talented linebacker will it be that doesn’t make the squad?

It appears that the Cowboys will move Albright inside and ask him to learn the Mike position in defensive sets along with his need to contribute on special teams. It has been chronicled that Albright is a player the Cowboys defensive coaching staff is very high on.  The only logical explanation for this move is, two-part, due to the phenomenal play so far this off-season of undrafted free agent Adrian Hamilton, who is learning the in’s and out’s of the joker (outside/pass rush specialist) linebacker, and the need to thin out a log jammed position at outside linebacker.

The Cowboys drafted both linebackers Kyle Wilber and Caleb McSurdy this past April during the 2012 NFL draft and also signed UFA’s Aston Whiteside and Adrian Hamilton. Adding former Carolina Panther Dan Connor via free agency this offseason brought the total of linebackers on the current roster to thirteen. The team carried three inside linebackers and four outside linebackers on the opening day roster in 2011.

If the mainstay within the Cowboys linebacking community are most certainly DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, and Dan Connor. Then the obvious back-ups will quite assuredly be Victor Butler behind Ware, followed by the rookie Kyle Wilber in spot duty behind Anthony Spencer.

Rookie Kyle Wilber will likely make the team on the merit of draft status alone so where does this leave Adrian Hamilton? Will the Cowboys cut Adrian Hamilton? Hamilton is forcing the Cowboys to take notice. We don’t believe the former defensive end will be cut and if the team tries to slide him under the radar and onto the practice squad the UFA will without hesitation be signed by one of the twelve teams that had originally sought out the pass rushing specialist’s services once the draft was over. Hamilton, the former Prairie View A&M star broke the SWAC single season sack record, is simply too good to not receive an opportunity to play in the NFL.

Therefore it’s either Hamilton makes the roster or he is no longer a Cowboy and, as goes the luck of the Cowboys, ends up on the roster of a division foe terrorizing Dallas for years to come. Some one on the current squad is the heir apparent to Anthony Spencer. The team is too talent loaded at linebacker not to have someone capable of stepping up in Spencer’s absence after the 2012 season.

If Hamilton does land on the 53-man, equating to what is five outside linebackers then the next question is the number of middle linebackers to be carried by the team. Alex Albright made the roster last year so for him not to make the roster this year and earn a practice squad designation would seem to be a demotion of sorts that we don’t believe the player or the team will be willing to make or accept.

Therefore carrying Alex Albright along with Dan Connor to back-up both Sean Lee and Bruce Carter will leave the Dallas Cowboys holding onto a total of nine linebackers to begin the season. A move that would need to happen in order to retain the talent at linebacker the Dallas Cowboys have been stock piling the past few seasons.

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Tags: Adrian Hamilton Alex Albright Anthony Spencer Aston Whiteside Bruce Carter Caleb McSurdy Dallas Cowboys Dan Connor DeMarcus Ware Isiah Greenhouse Kyle Wilber Orie Lemon Sean Lee

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