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Name To Know: Luke Gifford Could Add LB Depth


(Editor's Note: With training camp finally beginning, there are countless names that will shape the way this Cowboys season plays out. On a team with this much star power, some of those names are better known than others. This series seeks to identify some of the unheralded members of the Cowboys' roster, highlighting how they might make the team and have an impact on the 2020 season.)

  • Who Is He? LB Luke Gifford
  • How Did He Get Here? The Cowboys signed Gifford as a rookie free agent in April 2019 after he went undrafted out of Nebraska, where he made All-Big-Ten honorable mention as a senior.
  • Career Highlight: Gifford didn't play a single regular-season snap on defense last year, but he basically sealed a roster spot in his only preseason appearance – the opener at San Francisco. He posted two tackles, a pass breakup and an interception before hurting his ankle near the end of the first half. That, combined with his practice work early in camp, was enough for the Cowboys to keep him on the 53-man roster even though he didn't return to practice until late September.
  • How Does He Make It: With no preseason games expected, it'll be an uphill climb for any rookie linebacker on the roster once the Cowboys trim down to an NFL-required 80 players for training camp practice beginning in mid-August, per the reported agreement between the NFL and NFLPA. At least Gifford got some experience last season. The Cowboys have one of the deeper linebacker groups in the NFC when at full strength, but it's a taxing position. The projected top four linebackers on the depth chart (Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, Sean Lee and Joe Thomas) have all missed multiple games with injuries in their careers. The team needs players like Gifford to be able to step up and provide quality depth. In addition to the sprained ankle that cost him time early in the regular season, Gifford ended the year on IR with a broken arm.
  • How He Can Help: Special teams, just like any player pushing for a roster spot. Gifford tied for the Cowboys' fifth-most special teams tackles last year (6) despite playing only 58 snaps in six games. New special teams coordinator John Fassel will be looking to find more consistency on all units, and Gifford was productive in limited work last year.

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