IRVING, Texas –
It’s been all mixing and matching to this point in Wilber’s career, as the 2012 fourth-round pick has yet to make a permanent mark outside of special teams, but the move to 4-3 strong side linebacker late last season appeared to be somewhat of a revelation.
“I’m playing the strong,” Wilber said emphatically Tuesday afternoon at the Cowboys’ Golf Classic. “I like linebacker. I was in the 3-4 playing linebacker, it’s just easier to read and react.”
Wilber was originally drafted as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He didn’t start in 2012 and the move to the NFL took a lot of adjusting. Then, as the Cowboys switched to the 4-3 defense in 2013, Wilber added some weight in an attempt to move to 4-3 defensive end.
But it wasn’t until switching back to linebacker in Week 12 against the Giants last season, lining up on the strong side, that Wilber looked like he truly found the right spot on defense. He never had more than four tackles in a game prior to that Week 12 matchup, when he recorded seven.
Wilber said he may have looked comfortable than he actually was in that breakout performance.
“Definitely felt it over time,” he said. “The Giants game when they first put me out there, I was scared, I was nervous, I didn’t want to mess up, didn’t want to let my team down. Again, I was always asking Sean (Lee) what I needed to do, how should I play this, what’s the best way to do this. Just over time, it helped out.”
That comfort’s there now, particularly after sticking in that strong side spot and recording at least five tackles in five of the final six games of the season. Wilber will head into training camp this year with a legitimate shot at being the starter at strong side linebacker.
“Definitely more comfortable in the scheme,” he said. “You just get more comfortable once you know what everybody else around you’s doing, what you’re doing, it’s just much easier to play and react knowing the next guy next to you. He’s got this gap and knowing that you’ve got this gap, it’s just trust. So it’s a lot easier now.”
If Wilber does get the starting job, it won’t be next to Lee, as anticipated. But he still believes one of his biggest mentors on defense will be there to coach him up.
“Obviously I talk to him with plays, asking him how I should play this,” Wilber said. “I pick his brain every day. I think they kind of get annoyed with me, how many questions I ask.”