Advertisement

Fixer Upper: Cowboys LB corps a rebuild project worthy of DIY TV

The Cowboys’ issues at the linebacker position have been well-documented. A shallow position group coupled with a major injuries atop the depth chart resulted in disaster for Dallas last season. Things were never the same once Leighton Vander Esch joined DeMarvion Overshown on IR.

The Cowboys were forced to lean on the safety group far too often, exposing their run defense and overworking their nickel group. It resulted in a late season collapse that extended into the playoffs.  Unlike other many offseasons, the situation is unlikely to correct itself through the natural healing process.

Vander Esch’s neck injury, coupled with his gaudy medical history, make him seem a longshot to return in 2024. Overshown may be expecting a full recovery from his preseason ACL tear but the same was said of Terence Steele and Michael Gallup once upon a time. Cautious optimism is probably the responsible way to view Overshown.

Additionally, Marquese Bell is likely to bounce back to his natural position of safety. He made the transition to LB out of utter desperation, but at 6-foot-3, 205-pounds, he’s better suited for a box safety role again. And with Jayron Kearse likely to leave in free agency, the opportunity for Bell to claim a top-3 safety role will be there for the taking.

Damone Clark will return for his third season with the Cowboys, but his 2023 was largely underwhelming. Like everyone else, he was leaned on too much and forced into too many ill-fitting roles.

So the two, starting-caliber LBs expected to return in 2024 both have some obstacles to overcome: Overshown a significant knee injury and Clark some inconsistent play.

And all of that is based on the scheme of the departed defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. The needs may expand to three starting-quality LBs depending on who assumes the title next. Either way, major moves will be needed in Dallas just to reach bare minimum levels.

Given the situation, the Cowboys will likely need to utilize both free agency and the draft to build out the unit.

Off-ball LB tends to be a plug and play position so Dallas should lean on the draft to do the heavy lifting.

It’s noteworthy that of PFF’s top-20 graded LBs last season, 15 of them are 27-years-old or younger. It’s a position that often burns out quickly so any veteran signing should be done with caution.

Since the Cowboys probably need to find a starter in the 2024 draft, there’s a good chance they’ll use a top-100 pick to address the position. But they need to be prepared for anything since sometimes the draft doesn’t fall the way a team thinks it will. That requires Dallas to, at the very least, pick up a serviceable option in free agency.

Expect major changes this offseason.

An offer for Cowboys fans

For the best local Austin news, sports, entertainment and culture coverage, subscribe to the Austin American-Statesman.

Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire