Potential Strong Side Linebacker Candidates
Mark Nzeocha – 6’3″, 239 pounds
Nzeocha has the ideal length to be the starting Sam linebacker, although his natural athletic traits and lack of weight on his frame make him a better fit at middle linebacker. I believe that if Nzeocha didn’t get injured last preseason he likely would have been the starter at this spot last year. The coaches really like what they see from him and he will be in the picture when coaches begin talking about who sits at the top of the depth chart.
Anthony Hitchens – 6’0, 235 pounds
Hitchens was the starting middle linebacker last season for the Cowboys and has started at all three linebacker positions at different points in his career. Hitchens’ instincts and lack of size make him a much better fit at the Will or middle linebacker spots in this defense.
A healthy Jaylon Smith likely takes him out of his starting Mike spot and he will be willing to stick his nose in there and try his best to start on the strong side despite size deficiencies.
Damien Wilson – 6’1″, 243 pounds
Wilson has a lot of the same traits that Hitchens has as a player- he has good instincts and tends to find the football. Wilson has also shown glimpses of being more than respectable in coverage. Again, Wilson is more of a natural fit at the middle linebacker or weak side spot where his lack of length doesn’t matter nearly as much as his instincts and ability to fly around in space and make plays but he will be a factor in this competition.
Kyle Wilber – 6’4″, 245 pounds
Wilber has the ideal frame to play the Sam linebacker spot for this defense, but he is a long shot to break into the starting lineup. Coaches love his versatility due to his ability to rush the passer when needed and he is a key special teams player but he simply isn’t as talented as the other players competing for the starting strong side linebacker job.