Offseason | 2023

Battle Lines: Where Overshown Fits With LB Group 

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23 May 2023: DeMarvion Overshown (35) of the Dallas Cowboys during an OTA practice at the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas. Photo by James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

With the offseason practices – both OTAs and minicamps – all done for the Cowboys this offseason, there is a lengthy break between now and the start of training camp, which begins July 24 in Oxnard.

But that doesn't mean there aren't questions on the table at each position. Each day, we will take a deep dive into each spot on the field, analyzing the top battles, the key players and some bold predictions. Today, we continue with the linebacker position.

What needs to go right: The Cowboys have the makings for a solid second line of defense here, which, of course, will be tabbed with stopping the run. In four of Dallas' five regular-season losses in 2022, the team surrendered more than 150 rushing yards. Only twice in their 12 wins did the Cowboys do so. Meaning, these linebackers have to make sure opponents simply can't run wild.

*Biggest Question: Can the kids step up? While the Cowboys may very well add some veteran depth to the position through free agency, they'll still be relying heavily on a group of players who don't have a lot of experience. The Dallas defense needs Damone Clark to build on his promising rookie campaign of 2022, as well as contributions from unproven prospects like Jabril Cox, Devin Harper and DeMarvion Overshown.

Battle to Watch: Jabril Cox vs. DeMarvion Overshown: Overshown was the team's third-round draft pick this year, but really this could be Cox vs. any of the young linebackers battling for playing time. Now in his third season, the team's fourth-round pick in 2021 has seen 87 percent of his snaps come on special teams. Needless to say, contributing more on defense would benefit both Cox and the Cowboys.

Bold Prediction: Leighton Vander Esch will top 100 tackles. Considering he would have topped 100 takedowns last season if he hadn't missed three games, this probably isn't such a bold statement. Ah, but therein lies the rub, right? The veteran needs to stay healthy. The Cowboys are a better defense when he's on the field.

Biggest Challenge: Sept. 10 at the New York Giants: The Cowboys have to keep arguably the NFL's best running back, Saquon Barkley, in check while facing an offensive line on the rise. And it's the season opener in front of the Giants' frenzied fans and a prime-time television audience. Welcome to the NFL.

Key Stat: 11 – As a defense, the Cowboys were credited with missing only 64 tackles last season, which tied for the sixth-lowest total in the league. And just 11 of those were pinned on the linebackers. Given they totaled 266 tackles as a group, that's a 96 percent success rate.

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