Dallas Cowboys LB competition: The ultimate ‘Battle of Training Camp’

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Dallas Cowboys LB: Leighton Vander Esch

The former first round pick came to Dallas looking like a star. His tremendous rookie season was the thing of legends – Making LVE look like the second coming of Brian Urlacher. But alas things didn’t continue their path, and the man known as wolf hunter regressed to the point of becoming a below average liability with injury concerns.  As we’ve stated many times before, even when LVE was on the field the past two seasons, he was bad.

But there’s reason to believe Vander Esch is on track for an excellent season. Many of his issues have stemmed from poor play in front of him, poor scheme fit, and a loss in play strength. As we detailed just below, those factors appear to have been corrected.

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If Leighton Vander Esch can bounce back, he could be a rotational piece at WILL with Keanu Neal. It’s possible a 60/40 split is just what LVE needs to get his career back on track.

Dallas Cowboys LB: Jaylon Smith

Jaylon Smith has gotten the brunt of Cowboy Nation’s rage the past year or two. After signing his mega-extension, Smith’s play has declined. He went from rating as PFF’s 6th LB in 2018 to rating 18th and 44th the past two seasons.

Much like LVE, some of that is because of the scheme and poor play in front of him at DT. But also like LVE, his individual play also deserves blame. Last year Jaylon freelanced a ton. Playing hero ball won’t be allowed in Dan Quinn’s defense this year so I expect many of those wild gambles we saw last year, evaporate.

Jaylon can play at both MIKE and SAM so I expect him to rotate in the two spots this season. He’s best running downhill so if the Dallas Cowboys want to put him in the best situation to succeed, it’s probably as run-stopping and blitzing rotational piece.

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How the Dallas Cowboys divide the snaps will be captivating to watch. Camp should show us what the Cowboys are thinking and where the players will be playing. We could very well see Parsons get the fast track, even if he does lack experience in coverage assignments. I mean, wouldn’t you rather him learn the coverage than Jaylon or LVE be asked to do something they’re not particularly good at?

The Dallas Cowboys have the depth available to keep everyone healthy and fresh down the stretch. They have the size, speed, and talent to thrive in today’s NFL and they have motivated veteran players who should vastly improve considering the new conditions.

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This is absolutely the competition to watch in Cowboys Camp 2021.