Dallas Cowboys – Who Starts at LB and Where?


With the Dallas Cowboys’ re-signing of MLB (MIKE) Rolando McClain, it begs the question, ‘where does everyone fit in this LB corps?’

The Cowboys finally stopped the bleeding at LB and were able to re-sign one of their LBs this offseason. The best news is they did it on their terms (1 year/low risk incentive deal). So now that Rolando McClain is re-signing with the Cowboys for the 2015 season, the Cowboys must work out who plays where.

When healthy, McClain was a beast in the middle for the Dallas Cowboys. The runner-up to the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year, McClain quickly established himself as the best LB on the team and often times, the best defensive player on the team.

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Rolando McClain was a solid run-stopper, a natural backfield penetrator, and an asset in coverage. It’s no wonder why he won my co-Defensive Player of the Year award. He may have a propensity to injury, but re-signing McClain says he’s obviously slotted to start at MIKE in 2015.

Before McClain came to Dallas, the MIKE spot was Sean Lee’s. Sean Lee was the captain of the defense, calling plays and making adjustments. But as we all know, Sean Lee is also injury prone. He was lost for the entire 2014 season, but should be fully recovered in time for training camp 2015.

There’s no question the Cowboys want Sean Lee to move to WILL. WILL offers more playmaking opportunity as well as limits the physical punishment. Much like Rolando McClain, Sean Lee is a lock to start and dominate snaps…as long as he’s healthy.

Both Sean Lee and Rolando McClain have troubling injury histories. It’s not a matter of if they’ll miss games, it’s a matter of how many games will they each miss. With this in mind, having reliable backups at the WILL and MIKE seems like a pretty smart move.

This leaves the SAM spot as the only starting position available. The Cowboys have multiple LBs interested in carving out bigger roles in 2015, but two in particular stand out as the odds-on favorites to claim the SAM. Anthony Hitchens and Jasper Brinkley.

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If you read my article yesterday, you’ll see that I think (and always thought) Jasper Brinkley fits best as a SAM. To read about Brinkley and why he’s best suited as the starting SAM read: Jasper Brinkley’s Best Fit is at SAM.

This isn’t to diminish anything Anthony Hitchens has done, but rather a move made with Hitch’s successful 2014 in mind. Hitch was nothing short of season-saving in his rookie campaign. He played over 500 snaps between 3 different positions. Not all LB positions are created equal and not many players can successfully play them all – especially a rookie. But Hitch did.

Anthony Hitchens was good, but his struggles in coverage were apparent. He’s a smart and developing player who can grow into any and all roles. And that’s why I see him as a swing linebacker in 2015.

The idea for Hitch is to utilize his versatility and follow Rod Marinelli’s mantra at the same time. Marinelli believes the best players should start regardless of position. He always wants to find a way to get his best players on the field. When the inevitable injury to Sean Lee or Rolando McClain happens – and we all know it will happen – Hitch will be the first man up.

Keep in mind, even with Rolando McClain re-signed for the 2015 season, the up-coming draft is sure to target a LB or two. Remember, if Ryan Shazier had fallen to the Cowboys last season, the Cowboys were unquestionably going to make him their pick. Since then, the need at the LB position has only increased.

This thing is far from being complete as the Cowboys prepare for the draft in a couple weeks. New competition is expected.

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