The Dallas Cowboys currently have somewhat of a crowded meeting room at the linebacker position. With plenty of mouths to feed, who starts at SAM?
Offseason training activities have begun, and for the Dallas Cowboys, they have raised more questions than answers. Will La’el Collins play tackle? Can Emmett Clearly handle guard? Will
Jaylon Smith be able to see starting reps?
All are very fair and valid questions. As is this one: who will play the SAM linebacker when the Cowboys open the season against the New York Giants? Now, as a quick background for those unfamiliar with that terminology, allow me to explain.
In the Dallas Cowboys 4-3 scheme, there are three primary linebackers. MIKE (middle), WILL (weak side) and SAM (strong side). All-pro Sean Lee mans the weakside, or WILL, spot. And the hope is that 2016 second-round pick Jaylon Smith can take over the MIKE.
Which leaves a question mark at SAM. I see three potential answers: Damien Wilson, Anthony Hitchens and Mark Nzeocha. The Dallas Cowboys could also elect to bring in a veteran, but this coaching staff seems happy with their guys and their ability to make plays.
Mark Nzeocha can likely be eliminated from the running, mostly because he fits better in the middle. In the brief moments we have seen him on the field (largely in preseason), the coaches opted to line him up at MIKE. He wasn’t half bad.
But that leaves us with Wilson and Hitchens. Both are very capable players, with Hitchens having a little more starting experience. However, I believe Wilson has the higher ceiling. He flashed potential towards the end of the 2017 campaign.
The answer likely comes down to whether or not Smith suits up at middle linebacker. If he does, Wilson should start at SAM with Hitchens playing middle again, a la 2016. However, if Smith plays, this coaching staff does like experience. And that could lead to Anthony Hitchens getting the starting nod.
What do you think? Be sure to tell us who you believe should be the starting SAM linebacker for the Cowboys in 2017 in the comments below.