Unexpected special teams star has career game in Green Bay loss
The Dallas Cowboys linebacker room is full of some great talent. With Damone Clark back in the swing of things and Micah Parsons and Leighton Vander Esch leading the charge, it can be hard for guys outside of those names to get reps.
Linebacker and special teams guru Luke Gifford is fighting to make that change.
Heading into Week 10, the 27-year-old only had one special teams tackle for Dallas. But, in an otherwise frustrating game on Sunday, Gifford was a surprising highlight of the game on special teams. In one game alone, the fourth-year Cowboy had five tackles and a fumble recovery.
What’s even more impressive is that he did that in just 26 snaps. Safety Jayron Kearse also had five tackles but had 57 snaps to get it done.
The performance was so impressive that even longtime special teams coach John “Bones” Fassel claimed it was unlike anything he’d ever seen in his 17 years as an NFL coach — and he’s coached many Pro Bowlers and All-Pros.
"“Like nothing I’ve seen before. Five legitimate tackles in one game, on special teams. I haven’t ever been a part of a game where one guy had that many tackles. And he had a fumble recovery, too. He was very productive; he actually missed one [tackle] on a punt at the end of the game. It could have been six.”"
Cowboys LB Luke Gifford has spectacular game on special teams against Packers
Gifford hasn’t gotten much of an opportunity to be a linebacker on defense with Dan Quinn’s group. The third-string LB has played with the defense in only seven games in his Cowboys career, collecting double-digit snaps only once.
However, he has been a consistent and solid performer on special teams. The Nebraska product has been in over half of special teams snaps in 33 of his 38 games as a Cowboy.
Fassel is lucky to have the linebacker and knows he’s working to earn himself reps with the defense.
"“Proud of him, because he’s been under the radar, playing really good football. Maybe the stat sheet doesn’t show it. Also his leadership. I think the best is yet to come for him.”"
This was arguably one of the best individual special teams performances of the year. While eyes are usually on KaVontae Turpin and his returns, maybe it’s time to keep an eye out for “Gifford Time” in addition to “Turpin Time.”