Dallas Cowboys: A big year awaits for this young defender

Leighton Vander Esch, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
Leighton Vander Esch, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images) /

After a short 2019 season, this Dallas Cowboys defender is set to have a big year.

The Dallas Cowboys have a great young linebacker on their roster in Leighton Vander Esch. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, LVE had his season shortened to nine games due to a neck injury last year.

There are a lot of changes to the team heading into the new season from new players to coaching changes. Vander Esch has a big year awaiting him in 2020.

In 2019, the Dallas Cowboys had a very underwhelming season. Part of that was clear holes in the roster, a few injuries, and the inability to adapt to what the opposition is doing.

To counter that, owner Jerry Jones overhauled the coaching staff and picked up players to address their holes. The team looks the most complete than it has been in a very long time. Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch will surely benefit from these changes.

New defensive coordinator Mike Nolan will likely implement a defense that is more aggressive than we have seen under the former Rod Marinelli. The Cowboys used to only play the tackle, but will now look to make plays on the ball more often.

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Mike Nolan has had the privilege of coaching legendary linebackers Patrick Willis and Ray Lewis. Maybe Nolan can use what helped those two players be great, to morph LVE into a legendary linebacker.

The 2018 first-rounder has already put on a tackling show the past two seasons, racking up 140 tackles in his rookie season and 72 tackles in nine games last season. He has also done well with batting down passes and picking a couple of them off.

Where he raises concerns in his stat line is completion percentage against and passer rating against. In 2018, quarterbacks had an 80.0 percent completion percentage and a 96.4 passer rating. The 2019 season saw them have a 78.7 percent completion percentage and a 112.0 passer rating.

This Dallas Cowboys defender is not far from being a first-team All-Pro

I would expect both of those numbers to drop with the new defensive scheme put in. If Vander Esch can hold quarterbacks to under a 75 percent completion percentage and a 90.0 passer rating, LVE can get serious consideration to be a first-team All-Pro.

In his 2018 rookie season, Vander Esch was a second-team All-Pro. It is not a far reach for the unbelievably smart and athletic 24-year-old to make the first team this season.

Dan Hanzus, a writer for NFL.com, predicts Vander Esch to be the team MVP for the 2020 season. He believes Vander Esch on his game can drastically affect the team’s record.

"“To put it another way, peak Vander Esch could be the difference between 12-4 and 8-8 at Jerrah World.”"

To have one single player be the difference-maker as to if you win or lose four games in a 16 game season means a lot. What better to be rewarded than being picked as a first-team All-Pro?

His impact on the Cowboys is very obvious. If he does suffer another serious injury (knock on wood) then it will leave Dallas in a terrible spot.

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If Vander Esch remains healthy, he will have a huge bounce-back season. I believe his tackling numbers could eclipse 150  this year, which is only 10 more than he had as a rookie. While the young Pro Bowl linebacker has little to prove to Dallas Cowboys’ fans, I believe this will be a career year for the talented Mr. Leighton Vander Esch.