MIDDLE LINEBACKER (Winner: Hitchens)
Cowboys fans desperately hope redshirt rookie Jaylon Smith can return from his nasty per-NFL injury and dominate the interior.
Before his injury Smith was destined to be every bit as dominant at middle linebacker as Rolando McClain.
While I do expect Smith to show well and provide glimpses of beast potential. He’ll likely need more time to adjust to the strains football puts on his recovered leg.
There may be a time in 2017 where Smith wrestles away the starting role on early downs. However, asking him to be starter ready by Week One is a stretch.
SAM LINEBACKER (Winner: Wilber)
Just like Irving’s absence at left end, Damien Wilson‘s likely suspension will disrupt the SAM linebacker pecking order.
I want to believe Marinelli will seek to play his three best linebackers. This strategy requires Smith holding down the middle so Hitchens can slide over to SAM.
Smith’s injury issues and Hitchens’ smaller size (6’0, 235) make this unlikely.
Instead Kyle Wilber will most likely return to the starting lineup and reclaim the spot he held in years past.
SAM needs to have size to hold the point. At 6-4, 245, Wilber has the experience and build to get the job done well enough.