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Mailbag: Can Jabril Cox Have Role Like Neal? 


Jabril Cox was lost for the season early on. How is he doing in rehab and do you expect a Keanu Neal type of role for him next season? — PETER ZAINO / NORTH HAVEN, CT

Nick: I would guess that Cox would be able to do some things in the offseason but won't be turned loose until maybe training camp if that. Some players react differently but even if they're back to 100 percent, they probably still need a few more months to get back to themselves. The hope for him is that he can be ready because linebacker isn't a position that has a ton of depth. I would think his rehab schedule might determine just how early the Cowboys address this position in the draft.

Rob: Usually with an ACL, the goal is to be ready for the start of next season, so we'll have to see how much work Cox can do in the offseason program and training camp to find a larger role on defense. Remember, Blake Jarwin tore his ACL in the 2020 opener and they brought him along slowly through the following preseason. Cox got hurt on Halloween, so it's a shorter timetable. But all indications are that his rehab has been going fine, and the Cowboys really like his potential.

With so many free agents who contributed last season potentially leaving, who is a player(s) that were on the practice squad or didn't play much that you can see taking on a bigger role? — MATTHEW MCGINNIS / ST. PAUL, MN

Nick: Yeah, I'm not going with the practice squad. I'm sure there might be a player or two that has some potential, but it would be just pure speculation to guess on that. If there is someone the Cowboys were stashing on the practice squad, I hadn't heard that. I'm think one of these young defensive backs needs to make a push this year and that's aside from Kelvin Joseph. What about Nahshon Wright and Israel Mukuamu? Those guys are both long and instinctive, they just need reps. The Cowboys will probably be in a position to give both of them more snaps this year. I think one, if not both, could make that leap.

Rob: Sticking with the linebacker position, I wonder if Luke Gifford could earn more snaps depending on how the Cowboys address that spot. (Neal and Leighton Vander Esch are set to be free agents as of now, and Cox is coming back from injury.) I thought Gifford was impressive in some of the situational drills we watched in training camp, but obviously he settled into a special teams role. Either way, I won't be surprised if linebacker is a draft target. Depth took a hit as the season went on.

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