Dallas Cowboys: Time to get excited about the young linebackers

MOBILE, AL - JANUARY 25: Linebacker Francis Bernard #13 . (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
MOBILE, AL - JANUARY 25: Linebacker Francis Bernard #13 . (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys have some young linebacker depth behind the starters you need to know

We all know the three starters for the Dallas Cowboys at linebacker will be Jaylon Smith, Leighton VanDer Esch, and Sean Lee, baring injuries. The depth behind them primarily consists of veteran Joe Thomas. After him, there are mostly young and inexperienced talent, but it’s talent that could be valuable for the Cowboys.

One of the issues the Cowboys had last year on defense was the linebackers were over-pursuing more than the previous year. They were trying to do too much behind the defensive line and getting caught flat-footed or out of position. What we have found is much of this was due to an ineffective and flat scheme that allowed teams to plan against them.

Flash forward to 2020 and there is a new coaching staff with what looks to be a new scheme. The new scheme should allow for more help up front as the defensive line shouldn’t be consistently trying to get up-field as fast as they can. They should be able to disguise movement more, and allow the linebackers to fill gaps and not have to play all positions.

With the history of Sean Lee’s health, the unknown of LVE’s neck, and Jaylon’s foot, there are some concerns, but the depth behind them isn’t as scary as it could have been. Joe Thomas has filled in well when called upon. Justin March-Lillard is the other linebacker that has seen decent playing time and has also played well in spots.

The rest of the linebackers are fairly unknown but intriguing, to be sure. Luke Gifford appeared in six games in 2019 and collected three solo tackles and three assists. While this might not be flashy, it’s not bad for a rookie undrafted free agent in limited snaps. Most people remember Gifford for his flash he showed in preseason, but an injury hampered his 2019 and ended the season on IR.

The three rookies that could make a run on the depth chart are LaDarius Hamilton, Francis Bernard, and Azur Kamara. Each offers something different in skill set, but each could find roles for depth and on special teams. Hamilton could rotate between linebacker and defensive end, and his versatility should help.

LaDarius Hamilton had production as a defensive end at North Texas, while his combine 40 time was slow, his game film showed a quicker player. He is not a linebacker right now you want into coverage right away, but as a guy to work the edge and rush the passer, Hamilton offers some upside right away. His lateral quickness and strength could be used underneath against the passing attack as well.

More from Dallas Cowboys

Francis Bernard is a linebacker out of Utah I was slightly surprised went undrafted. He sheds blocks well and has quick feet and acceleration to get away from second level blocks. He hits holes well and can move laterally pretty well. He had some off-field issues early in college, but has not had any issues since. He is a solid zone defender and with some work could find a role early on special teams and in spot play at linebacker.

Azur Kamara is another defensive end who looks to make the NFL transition to linebacker. He might fit better due to size and speed at linebacker. He looks the part and has the flat speed, but will need to work on hips and change of direction. He could play well in zone coverage but should not be lined up against more powerful tight ends. He instantly can contribute to special teams as he learns more of the linebacker spot.

Hot. Why Is Jerry Jones so Silent Right Now?. light

Next. Predicting the Dallas Cowboys’ starting 22 in 2022. dark

It is possible that Kamara and maybe Hamilton find their way onto the practice squad, but right of the group of three Hamilton and Bernard are the two most likely to find a spot. They each provide something on defense and with some work will provide depth that could be needed by the end of the year. They may be young, but they are good depth to have.

  • Published on 06/16/2020 at 11:01 AM
  • Last updated at 06/16/2020 at 08:58 AM