In order for the Dallas Cowboys linebacker corps to be a position of strength in 2017, they may need young Damien Wilson to step up.
For the first time since 2004, the Dallas Cowboys did not draft a linebacker in a draft. According the Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones, the predominate feeling was the team is in good shape at the position.
"“I do think it was thinner there in terms of the type of linebacker we’re looking for than it was at these other positions, so it made it more difficult,” Jones told the Dallas Morning News. “But we like our linebacking corps. You can’t ever get comfortable, but we do like the guys we have on the team right now.”"
In saying that, you have a solid core starting with weakside linebacker and All-Pro Sean Lee. The 30-year old veteran had another monster year posting 145 total tackles and receiving his second Pro Bowl nod in a row.
There is also jack of all trades Anthony Hitchens, who has played all three linebacker positions since his time with the Cowboys. Both veteran Kyle Wilber and the oft injured Mark Nzeocha provide solid depth.
The X-factor is last year’s second round pick Jaylon Smith, who was a consensus top five selection until a devastating knee injury he suffered in the 2016 Fiesta bowl derailed threaten his NFL career. But so far, all signs are pointing to him seeing the field this year.
The Cowboys linebacker I want to see go to the next level though is third year pro Damien Wilson. Wilson who was actually slated to start last season until a unfortunate paintball incident where he was shot in the eye and suffered temporary loss of vision caused him to miss valuable time during training camp.
Wilson started to come on strong at the end of the year though. In the Cowboys Week 12 victory over the Washington Redskins, the 2015 fourth selection out of Minnesota recorded five total tackles and was flying all over the field.
The young linebacker ended up finishing the season with 34 tackles, posting a season-high of eight in the Cowboys final regular season game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Blessed with good size and the speed of a heat seeking missile when coming off the blitz, it’s easy to see why Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli likes his potential at the Sam position or strong side linebacker, if you will.
The 23-year old’s potential needs to turn into more production though as the Boys will need more from him in 2017. If Wilson can continue to play aggressive, stay under control and not overrun plays as was his knock on him when coming of college; his addition could make the Cowboys linebacker corps the best in the NFL.