DallasCowboys.com Staff Writer
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Hitchens Has Ability To Play All Three Linebacker Spots
IRVING, Texas – Anthony Hitchens was late to his first week of work with the Cowboys because he had to finish taking exams at Iowa. From the sound of it, the toughest learning he did was in his transition to middle linebacker at the teams’ rookie minicamp last weekend.
The Cowboys made Hitchens their fourth-round selection on May 10 with the expressed intent of turning him into a backup for Sean Lee. The transition comes when you learn that the vast majority of his 270 career tackles for the Hawkeyes came from the weak side.
Given the adjustments required of the position, Cowboys linebackers coach Matt Eberflus was impressed with Hitchens’ first bit of work last weekend.
“It’s a new position for him, new techniques for him and the first time in front of the huddle for him,” Eberflus said. “So he had to learn how to take control of the huddle, make the call, make the close calls, set the defense and all those types of things – so there’s a lot of things going on there for the young man in the first practice.”
Even in shorts and helmets, Eberflus said Hitchens’ physical ability was evident. The Ohio native made 236 combined tackles in 24 games as a starter for Iowa – an average of 9.8 stops per game. The biggest adjustment may be the mental aspect of being the defensive quarterback.
“I loved his movement skills, he used his hands really well. He was taught well there at Iowa, so he did a lot of good things physically,” Eberflus said. “Some of the mental aspect of it he wasn’t used to doing, but he’ll get that.”
For all the talk of Hitchens backing up Lee, though, Eberflus brought up the always-appealing prospect of Hitchens’ versatility. The rookie’s experience as a Will linebacker could make him a factor in the competition for Bruce Carter’s weak side spot. And Eberflus added he could potentially be more versatile than that.
“He’s got great hitting ability. We saw that on college tape, and we’ll see where exactly he fits. Right now we’ve got him at Mike. He could end up being at Sam, he could end up being at Will,” he said. “We’re going to get our best three in there, then our next best three and go from there. We’ll see where he fits as time goes.”