FRISCO, Texas – Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch says he's "on a mission" to help the defense rebound from last season's struggles.
Dan Quinn can tell.
"I've been really impressed, not just from the OTA time," said Quinn, the Cowboys' new defensive coordinator. "Every once and a while you can just see a person that's on a mission, and I think that's what I've seen from Leighton from the time I arrived. You could just feel the energy and intensity that he's putting into his workouts to change his body, to get as strong as he could. From then on, the questions, in the meetings, you could feel the urgency to go.
"I guess, just a quick story for him: the tackling. 'Hey, I want to improve on this spot.' The work that we did and the techniques to do it. It's been so impressive to see him find little things to work on over and over again to complete his game. He's been very impressive to me so far."
Quinn says he's been impressed with the leadership from all the veteran linebackers – Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith and free agent addition Keanu Neal – helping rookie draft picks Micah Parsons and Jabril Cox get acclimated to their first NFL offseason program.
The Cowboys have added competition at linebacker through the draft and free agency, and they did not pick up the fifth-year option on Vander Esch's rookie contract, though Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones says they're hopeful to re-sign Vander Esch long term at some point.
Vander Esch says he's trusting the Cowboys' plan and doesn't take any extra motivation from his contract situation.