OXNARD, Calif. - Before he makes his way to Canton for his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend, Gil Brandt has spent some time at Cowboys training camp, telling all kinds of stories from the recruitment of future Hall of Famers to the current state of the team.
Brandt, who is considered one of the architects of America's Team, was the Cowboys' general manager from 1960-89. But he has continued to have a strong relationship with the Cowboys and owner/GM Jerry Jones, who will be Brandt's presenter in Canton this week.
Brandt can tell plenty of stories from the 60s and 70s, but he loves what he sees from this current team, especially on defense.
In fact, Brandt said the Cowboys might have a linebacker group that could potentially rival the duo from the early days that wound up in the Ring of Honor.
"Lee Roy Jordan and Chuck Howley were pretty darn good for us," Brandt said. "But I like these two right now. 55 and 54 can really play."
And ironically enough, Brandt has said that before, referring to the jersey numbers of Jordan (55) and Howley (54), the only two linebackers currently in the Ring of Honor at AT&T Stadium.
"Yeah, that's pretty neat. 55 and 54," Brandt chuckled. "I've seen that before."
In no way is Brandt ready to compare Jaylon Smith (54) and Leighton Vander Esch (55) to any of the Cowboys greats, but they have a quality that could help them take the defense to another level.
"What I like about this group is that they can really run, and they play three downs," Brandt said. "When you get linebackers that can stay on the field and play in all of the packages, you can play with anyone."
Brandt referenced a recent trip to the Arizona Cardinals' training camp where the offense, led by new head coach Kliff Kingsbury and first-overall pick Kyler Murray had a fast-paced tempo that will challenge defenses with a constant no-huddle.
"You have to be able to keep your personnel on the field at all times," Brandt said of defenses. "I think with those two (Vander Esch and Smith), they can play with anyone."
Vander Esch made the Pro Bowl and was second-team All-Pro last year as a rookie, becoming the first rookie to lead the Cowboys in tackles since the team recorded the stat in 1977. Smith wasn't far behind, recording 150, including 101 solo stops.