5 Cowboys that have to make huge improvements this offseason

CeeDee Lamb #88 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
CeeDee Lamb #88 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /
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Cowboys, Leighton Vander Esch
PHILADELPHIA, PA – JANUARY 08: Leighton Vander Esch #55 of the Dallas Cowboys reacts after intercepting a pass against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on January 8, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

2. Leighton Vander Esch, LB

The case of former Boise State Bronco, Leighton Vander Esch, is a truly interesting one. After a surprisingly good rookie year, it feels like the “Wolf Hunter” has been on a steady decline. Whether it is injuries, poor performance, or a decrease in psychical traits, Vander Esch seems to be getting worse in years where he should be improving.

Last year featured some really positive weeks for the former first-round pick, but he has still not found that 2019 ability. This reflects in his contract this offseason, a slim one-year deal worth just $2M, a deal many non-cowboys fans would be shocked by.

His contract reflects a few things. First and most importantly, he is not the kind of player Dallas had hoped for when they drafted him. It seems possible his performance shortcomings may not be his fault, or even controllable, as his injury issues continue to come up.

This is his season. It is truly make-or-break for Vander Esch. Dallas has young linebackers waiting in the wings with Jabril Cox and rookie Damone Clark. Plus, as we saw with Jaylon Smith, the front office is not going to hesitate to move on if they feel the experiment is over.


The Cowboys passed on guys like Bobby Wagner in free agency, and some of the top linebackers in the 2022 draft. They are banking on a return to glory for Vander Esch as he leads the defense from the linebacker position.

Dan Quinn is going to need his linebackers to perform, and Vander Esch is the biggest key to that. If he can turn back the clock, stay healthy, and perform, this defense could be fantastic. If not, I believe it will be the last season for No. 55 in Dallas.