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Mailbag: Can Linebackers Handle Third Downs?


With the potential of having a better run defense on first and second down, I see opponents having a lot of third downs with four to seven yards to go. And given the Cowboys' strong pass rush, along with a sticky cornerback group, I see teams throwing quick to tight ends and running backs quite often on third down. Do we have a linebacker group that can handle that or will Dan Quinn have to get into his bag and get creative? – Aaron Moorehead/Alpharetta, GA

Nick Eatman: The answer can be both, but mainly the second part - Dan Quinn. I do believe he has visions for certain players and how they can fit into what he's trying to do. We saw it two years ago with Jayron Kearse and then last season with Donovan Wilson. We saw it in the playoff game with Israel Mukuamu and how he basically lined up in the middle of the field and it seemed to rattle Tom Brady - as odd as that sounds. So DQ knows how to find players who can fit into these roles and I really think DeMarvion Overshown will eventually be that player. If these hybrid safety-types such as Overshown, Kearse and Mukuamu can handle the run-duties in the nickel, then that's your answer. If not, Clark and Cox and LVE will also get plenty of reps, too. One way or another, I believe Quinn has enough resources to get it done.

Patrik: I believe the coverage skills of Leighton Vander Esch are a bit underrated by most. While he may not be the best in the league at it, he's definitely above average and has shown he can play sideline to sideline, as can Damone Clark but, for me, the ability for this LB corps to show its coverage chops will come down to Jabril Cox and DeMarvion Overshown. Cox was a monster in coverage in his prime days at LSU, pre-torn ACL, and that's what he's hoping to get back to in 2023; and he's shown early flashes of his former self in OTAs and minicamp. Overshown is a former safety who is instantly one of the best coverage LBs in the room in Dallas, and he can definitely help (along with Jayron Kearse) keep TEs honest. If Cox and/or Overshown take a big step this year, don't count on TEs and receiving RBs enjoying their afternoons against this LB unit.

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