Skip to main content


Presented by

Mailbag: The Return Of Leighton Vander Esch


I've seen and read a lot of good things about Jaylon Smith in practice. How has Leighton Vander Esch looked in training camp and do you think the move to middle linebacker will make a big difference, or are we reading too much into that position switch? — MATTHEW K / DALLAS, TX

David: It's hard to evaluate linebackers in practice, because so much of the job revolves around tackling — which you aren't allowed to do in training camp. That said, I think Leighton has looked wonderful. He practices with the same type of intensity as Sean Lee, and he certainly seems to have a good handle on his assignments. He looks good in coverage, as well. I've seen him break up at least six or seven passes during camp.

Jonny: I think the move to middle linebacker might have more to do with taking advantage of the possible versatility of Jaylon Smith playing on the outside. But a healthy Vander Esch in the middle of the field is definitely enticing. The guy just finds the ball and makes the tackle. Keeping him on the field and injury-free is one concern, but if you can accomplish that I think he's going to do a lot of good things for this defense.

How much do the coaches take into consideration their opponents' strengths and weaknesses to determine which positions to go long or short on with the 53-man roster? — GARET TANAKA / MAUI, HI

David: I'm not sure I follow the question, to be honest. There are 13 different opponents on the schedule, so I'm not sure it'd be a great idea to base your roster decisions around what one of them might bring to the table. The best bet is to solidify the most important positions with as much depth as possible. For my money, that'd be the offensive and defensive lines, as well as the secondary.

Jonny: There is so much to consider there. Hopefully, you're confident enough in your starters and rotation players to where those decisions are more based on what positions it would be most beneficial to have extra insurance in. Ideally, you aren't factoring a starter's weaknesses into who makes the final roster spot. Can you forecast where depth might be needed, and are there players deep on the roster at that position good enough to step into a role at some point in the season?

Related Content