There is no time for young. That’s the state of mind around the NFL. Rookies are pushed into lineups due to injuries, position shuffles, or just on player talent alone.
Players must be ready at any moment — apparently, even before training camp.
Middle Linebacker Sean Lee‘s injury sent the Cowboys’ function out of orbit. If you figure Lee out for the rest of the season, come 2015 Lee will have played in 46 games out of a possible 80. At the start of the regular season in September 2015, Lee will be 29-years-old.
No time. Can’t wait.
Next man in.
Say hello to linebacker Anthony Hitchens, selected out of Iowa in the 4th round. He is known for his aggressive tackling, hard hits, work ethic (well-respected), grit, and physical toughness (missed only one game in college).
Hitchens, who turns 22 years-old today, admitted immediately that he was not ready to take over the middle linebacker place when Lee went down.
But, there’s a “but” in the story. The weak-side linebacker is expected to compete for the open spot as the Cowboys are looking internally to fill this role. And though he admitted he wasn’t ready, Hitchens has made it a point to close the gaps between what he knows and doesn’t know.
Good. Because the Dallas Cowboys can’t have it a different way.
For Hitchens, whose early selection raised eyebrows in the 4th round, has a chance to prove scouts wrong who penciled him as a 6th or 7th round draft choice.
The team arrives for training camp on July 22nd. It’ll be Hitchens first chance to land first impressions. The Cowboys are hopeful they’ve selected a day one starter.
Wasting no time, Hitchens signed a rookie deal on June 2nd.
Now let’s compare the combine stats for both of these middle linebackers…