The Dallas Cowboys took many hits to their defensive secondary this offseason, but the corps of linebackers could be the strength of this unit in 2017.
Forget the Dallas Cowboys free-agent losses like J.J. Wilcox and Barry Church, two safeties that played well but weren’t at all worth keeping around for the money they somehow commanded in free agency. Toss aside shockingly expensive cornerbacks like Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr, two players that cost an arm, a leg and probably a kidney to acquire and then delivers almost nothing expected.
The Cowboys strength on defense this coming season will likely be an under-the-radar linebacker corps that is seldom talked about.
Provided that veteran Sean Lee maintains his Pro Bowl streak of the last two seasons, the Cowboys linebackers will remain a good unit moving ahead. In the 4-3 defense currently being employed by defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, having at least one linebacker like Lee is essential.
Regardless off whether or not you have much faith in that last guy finally making his highly anticipated transition to the NFL playing field following serious injury 18 months ago, there’s still no shortage of names at linebacker for the Cowboys, and several are better players than realized by many.
How do I know this?
Well, about all I have heard this offseason in the mainstream media, at least concerning the 2017 Dallas Cowboys, is how big of a challenge this franchise has in terms of replacing that mediocre secondary. After that, it’s all about Smith, his injury and how he’ll likely never live up to his potential that was created while playing at Notre Dame as a national star.
Let me ask you a question: Entering the 1992 season, did you know much a bout Ken Norton, Jr? How about a rookie named Robert Jones? Were you wearing your Vinson Smith jersey during that huge opening night victory over the defending Super Bowl champion Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football?
To the point, the Cowboys linebackers over the course of 1992-1995, a four-year stint that saw three Super Bowl wins, were highly interchangeable and always pretty good, from top to bottom. By 1993, Dixon Edwards and Darrin Smith has taken starting jobs from Vinson Smith and Robert Smith and the interchangeability continued.
With Lee being the only star player for the Cowboys, I would caution anybody to assume that he’s the only good player this corps has.
My money says that Wilson and Hitchens man starting positions alongside Lee, at least until we have any clue as to what Smith can contribute this season.
Both Hitchens and Wilson are three-year veterans, or better, and both play the game with an aggression that I think gets overlooked daily. Having said that, you can go online at any time and see for yourself what these players bring to the table.
In stark contrast to those linebackers from the 1990s, these current Cowboys linebackers seem to have a bit more size and strength than those ‘undersized’ youngsters from before had. I’m not even certain that Dallas has better players, pound-for-pound, than it did before.
If anything, the Cowboys will enter training camp next month with plenty of depth at this key position that will definitely bear the fruit necessary to compete for another NFC East title.