(Editor's Note: Throughout the off-season, DallasCowboys.com staff writers will take a closer look at the roster, analyzing players' impact last season and how each fits into the team's 2016 plans. Today's Roster Rundown entry features linebacker Anthony Hitchens.)
Name: Anthony Hitchens
Height/Weight:6-0 / 235
Experience: 2 seasons
Key stat:Hitchens finished fourth on defense with 85 tackles and added two sacks.
Contract Status: Signed through 2017.
2015 Impact: One of the most competitive players on the squad. High character and outstanding work ethic. Is a team player in every sense of the word. Huge passion for the game. Can see that he loves to play. Had to make starts much like he did for Ronaldo McClain in 2014 and was able to play at a high level. Funny that he tends to play better when he is banged up as opposed to being healthy. Can really concentrate when physically not at his best. One of his best traits is his ability to read on the move. Is a reactionary athlete in the way he plays. Outstanding effort and motor to get to the ball and finish the play. Amazing how much toughness that he shows in a game. Appeared to be more comfortable in his communication with his teammates from his rookie season to this last one. When he sees the ball, he can physically finish the play. Very consistent in the way he tackles. Don't see him fall off many opportunities. Improving in coverage and as a blitzer. Snaps showed an ability to be a factor when he rushed the passer but can do more.
Where He Fits: Staff will tell you that they love his position flexibility at all three linebacker spots, but in reality he is a much better fit as a MIKE or WILL than he is as a SAM because of his lack of length. If there is an area that he needs to improve on it would be his ability to take on blockers, and this is where that lack of length hurts him. Depending what happens with Rolando McClain and in the NFL Draft, he could be the starter as the MIKE for this defense. Played less in nickel once McClain returned to the lineup. When he gets it going, can be a tackling machine.
Rob Phillips: With Sean Lee back healthy after missing the entire 2014 season, Hitchens didn't appear to have as large a role on defense in his second season. An 11-game starter as a rookie, Hitchens started the first four games of 2015 at middle linebacker while Rolando McClain served his four-game league suspension. Once McClain returned, Hitchens' playing time dropped. He had eight games of fewer than 20 snaps in part because Lee and McClain were the two linebackers who stayed on the field in subpackages. However, Hitchens is a dependable player with starting experience at all three linebacker positions. Perfect example: he started at all three spots in each of the team's final three games.