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Draft Breakdown: Thin Class Of LBs Shouldn’t Hurt Cowboys
(Editor's Note: As the NFL Draft approaches on April 25-27, DallasCowboys.com's Draft Series will analyze every position, the Cowboys' needs at each, which players might be targeted for their six picks and some interesting draft nuggets. Part 9 features the linebacker position.)
This position has obviously changed with the Cowboys moving to the 4-3 scheme. Both DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer have moved to defensive end, which is probably good for other outside linebackers in the NFC, who likely have a better shot at making the Pro Bowl. Ware has been seven straight years and
Spencer made it as an alternate this past season. As for the linebackers left over, Bruce Carter and Sean Lee will have two of the starting spots and newly signed veteran Justin Durant will likely enter the offseason and training camp as the favorite on the strong side. However, the Cowboys aren’t ruling out Kyle Wilber, Alex Albright and even Ernie Sims as possible candidates to start. And even head coach Jason Garrett said the middle linebacker spot isn’t necessarily set. While Lee will likely start inside, the coach said back in February that Carter could compete for that spot, which would move Lee outside.
This doesn’t appear to be a position the Cowboys would be adding to in free agency anytime soon. With the signing of Durant and re-signing of Sims, they should have plenty of depth to compete. Carter and Lee have the other spots manned, although they both had some injury issues last year.
Now, there are some big-name linebackers still on the market, such as Brian Urlacher, Bart Scott, Takeo Spikes, Karlos Dansby and even Bradie James, but if we’re talking about backup players, it doesn’t seem likely the Cowboys would want an aging veteran, considering they are typically used for special teams purposes.
Unless an injury occurs early in training camp, the Cowboys are likely set at this position.
In 1988, the Cowboys made a big splash in what turned out to be Tom Landry’s final year with the Cowboys. He took the flamboyant Michael Irvin, who wasn’t just a playmaker at Miami, but a showman as well. Taking a backseat to Irvin that year was second-round pick Ken Norton Jr., the son and namesake of the former heavyweight boxing champ. Norton became a fixture in the middle of the Cowboys’ defenses and played a huge role in the Super Bowl XXVII win over Buffalo. In that game, he made a key goal-line tackle that saved a touchdown, knocked out Bills quarterback Jim Kelly with a second-quarter hit and later returned a fumble for a touchdown. Norton was the first player in NFL history to win three straight Super Bowl rings, as he joined the 49ers in 1994 and helped them win Super Bowl XXIX.
Some of the top linebacker prospects in the draft include George’s Alec Ogletree and Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o. Both players have a chance to be first-round picks but could slide toward the second round. Although it’s not a particularly deep class for linebackers, both inside or outside, Bryan Broaddus has more on a few linebacker prospects who will likely make it past the first round.