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Cowboys LB Depth a Concern With Anthony Hitchens’ Departure?

Brian Martin

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Cowboys LB Depth a Concern With Anthony Hitchens' Departure?

Losing Anthony Hitchens to the Kansas City Chiefs is quite a blow to the linebacker depth for the Dallas Cowboys. During his time in Dallas, Hitchens was pretty much invaluable due to his ability to step in and play whatever LB position was needed in the Cowboys 4-3 defense. Unfortunately, the Cowboys will no longer have that "safety valve" at their disposable any longer.

The Dallas Cowboys were very open about trying to retain Anthony Hitchens, but they knew he would likely end up out of their price range in free agency. But, I don't know if anyone could've foreseen Hitchens receiving $9 million per season. There is no way the Cowboys could have kept him at that price.

Hitchens' departure might not seem like a big deal on the surface, but if you dig a little deeper, you will discover that it creates a huge hole that needs to be filled at the Cowboys linebacker position. Let me show you what I mean…

Here is the Dallas Cowboys current depth chart at LB:

MIKE: Jaylon Smith

WILL: Sean Lee

SAM: Damien Wilson

Backups: Justin March-Lillard, Tre'von Johnson

As you can see, the Dallas Cowboys have to be a little bit concerned with their depth at the linebacker position heading into the 2018 season. Yes, it looks as if they have their starters in place with Smith, Lee, and Wilson, but the cupboard is pretty bare behind them.

That's where Anthony Hitchens was so invaluable. He could step in and play any three of the LB positions, and do it at a high level without there being much of a drop off. The Cowboys no longer have that kind of "safety valve" on the roster.

Anthony Hitchens' departure via free agency definitely increases the need to address the depth at the linebacker position for the Dallas Cowboys. In fact, they would be wise to use both free agency and the draft to secure some much-needed depth.

There are a few free-agent linebackers out there who would fit into their "bargain shopping" mentality who could come in and provide much-needed depth. Luckily, this is also a pretty talented LB draft class. It wouldn't be a total surprise if they decided to double dip at the position.

Depth is the biggest concern here. The Dallas Cowboys don't necessarily need starters with Smith, Lee, and Wilson still on the roster, but they absolutely have to keep the future of the position in mind.

We all know Sean Lee has trouble staying healthy, which means it might be time to find his eventual replacement. Damien Wilson will also be moving on shortly. Then, despite his improved health, there are still concerns about Jaylon Smith's long-term health/future.

Anthony Hitchens will surely be missed, but the Dallas Cowboys surely had a contingency plan in place. It will be interesting to see how they go about replacing their "safety valve".

Are you with the Dallas Cowboys LB depth after Anthony Hitchens departure?



Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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5 Comments
  • Travis Diggs

    U dont know what you got till its gone, just look back to last year with Barry Church. Now were relying on Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith’s health all season. Seeing how we haven’t done anything in free agency and probably won’t, don’t expect Derrick Johnson and Navarro Bowman. This is looking bad guys. I would of long termed Hitchens and Released Sean Lee next season but most cowboys fans would say no to that

    • Brian Martin

      Travis, I really like Anthony Hitchens, but I think the Cowboys can replace him through the draft. I know the Cowboys wanted to bring him back, but it looks as if Hitchens made the right decision to test free agency. There was no way the Cowboys could pay anywhere close to $9 million a season to keep him in Dallas. Hopefully they have a contingency plan in place, because the LB depth is a big concern.

      • cowboy_up

        Brian you’re absolutely right about Hitchens. I liked him too for what his responsibilities were in the Cowboys defense. He was solid, maybe slightly above solid but it’s not like he was a 1st round pick. I agree that losing him will be a blow from the standpoint of having a veteran presence. But he can (and will) be replaced. Hitchens did well for himself and securing the free agent deal that he’s about to receive. But under NO circumstance would it have been prudent for DAL to pay him anything close to $9M/yr. I wish Hitch the best and look for help in the draft AND free agency to help shore up that hole.

  • Hector Espindola

    Yes, Damien Wilson is, by no means, better than Hitch, and we can’t assume Lee can stay healthy the whole season, so a LB in 2nd round seems coming.

  • oneputter

    hitchens is a big blow for us, he was one of my favorite players on the team.

    now it leaves us with 2 LB’s who are nowhere near healthy, we can only hope smith turns out to be what he was once touted to be, lee we know won’t make a full season and then wilson who i think is a bit underrated by many has this weapons charge hanging over him. we haven’t heard if anything will come from it but knowing the NFL and its commissioner they will find a way to stick it to us again.

    let’s hope we are looking to trade up for R Smith….and i would also take a run a Bowman

Star Blog

Are the Dallas Cowboys Distancing Themselves from HC Jason Garrett?

Sean Martin

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Are the Dallas Cowboys Distancing Themselves from HC Jason Garrett? 2

Training camp is always an exciting time for the Dallas Cowboys, with 2018's proceedings being no exception. A major difference this year is the hype carrying over to the Cowboys coaching staff, featuring newcomers at the positional level everywhere but running back, safety, and defensive tackle.

Experienced coaches like Kris Richard, Paul Alexander, and Sanjay Lal will have a big impact on the Cowboys development as a 9-7 team that's only gotten younger this offseason. Still likely in need of a playoff appearance to save the job of Head Coach Jason Garrett and his coordinators, one can't help but question Garrett's effectiveness with this year's team.

The Cowboys appearance on NFL Films' latest All or Nothing series offered Cowboys Nation a rare look inside this team's day-to-day activities, including Garrett's role as a motivator and leader to many coaches no longer with the team.

Are the Dallas Cowboys Distancing Themselves from HC Jason Garrett?

Garrett's walk through a proverbial hall of mirrors at The Star reflects much deeper though. Ultimately, it's the players that decide games on Sundays, and the Cowboys didn't have enough of their blue chip ones on the field together for 2017. Whether or not this changes in 2018, the Cowboys can do little to shake the truth that conditions must be perfect for Garrett to captain this team to success.

If having a future Hall of Fame tight end like Jason Witten around wasn't enough for Garrett, going all in on this team in their first year without not only Witten but Dez Bryant feels foolish.

This underdog status and youthful nature may very well bring the Cowboys back to their 2016 form. I've already mentioned mirrors however, and how about the smoke? Garrett's best year out of eight full seasons, that 13-3 campaign was surely not all 'smoke and mirrors', but it is now far enough in the past to expect improvement from the Cowboys head coach.

Garrett must overcome massive changes on the offense he once coordinated to see third-year Quarterback Dak Prescott put this team back in the playoff picture, or the Cowboys will only continue to change face even more dramatically for 2019.

Long gone are the innocent days of Garrett playing catch under the California sun with a rookie Prescott, who had no idea the impact he'd make on the entirety of this franchise so quickly. Now, the Cowboys may have to quickly separate this duo if looking to preserve a window of contention under Dak's rookie contract.

It truly will be fascinating to see the new points of emphasis this revamped Cowboys coaching staff brings to the team not only on the field in Oxnard but through their team meetings and into the regular season. As Garrett allows the likes of Richard and Lal to oversee important changes at CB/S and WR respectively, his overarching message of character, competition, and respect will still echo throughout the team.

Are the Dallas Cowboys Distancing Themselves from HC Jason Garrett? 1

Whether or not the slew of new players Garrett has to coach can inspire him to implement this message effectively, or if his days are numbered given the slack the Cowboys have already provided, is the most important story line for the Cowboys in 2018.

By most team's standards, a 9-7 season given the circumstances around the Cowboys a year ago is acceptable -- which it ultimately was for Dallas as they kept Garrett, Scott Linehan, and Rod Marinelli.

This team's shortcomings through a disappointing season was enough for the Cowboys to begin reevaluating the coaches below this trio though, leaving only their ninth year head coach to fall victim to the level of turnover NFL teams are experiencing on the fly right now.

The Cowboys roster has received this message loud and clear. Will Garrett's carry the same impetus, and will it truly matter for the 2018 season?

Tell us what you think about "Are the Dallas Cowboys Distancing Themselves from HC Jason Garrett?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Star Blog

Is WR Cedrick Wilson the Player With Most to Gain in Training Camp?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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NFL Draft: Cowboys Get WR Cedrick Wilson in the Sixth Round
James Snook / USA TODAY Sports

Within the Dallas Cowboys' uncertain wide receiver core, is sixth-round pick Cedrick Wilson. Considered a draft steal by many, Wilson's name is often lost in the mix among Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley and third round rookie Michael Gallup. Just days away from the start of the 2018 training camp, Cedrick Wilson might be the player with the most to gain on the team.

Wilson comes from the Boise State Broncos, where he set the school record for receiving yards in a season with 1,511 last year. As a sixth-round rookie, the young 22-year old receiver has an uphill battle ahead of him to earn a spot on the Cowboys' 53-man roster.

It shouldn't come as a surprise if he emerges victorious in this battle, though.

You see, the lack of a #1 receiver has been one of the main story lines for the Cowboys and for good reason. Heading into the preseason, there is no clear-cut "#1." But even though there isn't a big name such as Dez Bryant, I'm sure we'll feel way better about the wide receivers once the season starts and the offense manages to sustain a good passing attack led by Dak Prescott.

Allen Hurns and Michael Gallup seem like the two front-runners for being the "X" receivers on offense, the position in which Wilson lined up at Boise State during his last year in college football. It's tough to imagine a sixth round rookie being the starting "X" receiver in his rookie season, but that doesn't mean he can't earn an important role at some point of the year.

In 2017, the offense struggled due to the receivers failing to create separation downfield. Wilson, although a raw route-runner, was a very dangerous vertical threat in Boise State and could be just that for the Cowboys down the road.

He needs to improve as a player, but with Sanjay Lal focusing hard at route-running with his receivers, Cedrick could become an important target for Dak earlier than expected.

In order to do so, the young wide receiver will have to find success in training camp. Wide receiver will undoubtedly be one of the most intriguing position battles on the team, with many young yet unproven talent.

There's too many receivers that will be fighting for a roster spot over the following weeks, so Cowboys Nation is bound to be disappointed with so many so-called "pet cats." One or two of these guys will be released and I bet it'll hurt, just as it happens every year.

In all seriousness, though, with his ability to stretch the field and be a vertical threat plus his experience as an "X" receiver, Cedrick Wilson might not only make the roster, but become a significant piece for this new-look offense in Dallas during his rookie season.

Tell me what you think about "Is WR Cedrick Wilson the Player With Most to Gain in Training Camp?" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Star Blog

Will DeMarcus Lawrence Be Franchise Tagged Again in 2019?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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DeMarcus Lawrence, Franchise Tags and Realities for Dallas Cowboys
Matthew Emmons / USA TODAY Sports

The deadline for extending players under the franchise tag has come and gone last Monday, in a day in which none of the remaining tagged players reached an agreement with their respective teams. That includes Dallas Cowboy Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence, who's set to earn $17M in 2018.

The front office and the 26-year old defensive end failed to agree to a new contract before the season's start, but we saw that coming. After all, there was never a point in which we had the classic "X player and his team are close to a new deal" headline.

All of this makes the future of the Cowboys' promising "War Daddy" very uncertain. What lies a head of the player that put on an impressive show in 2018?

Since 2017 was Lawrence's breakout year, racking up 14.5 sacks trough the season, we have leaned towards the narrative of last season being his only good one. His performance last season was impressive and clearly his best one yet, but we tend to overlook 2015.

In his sophomore season, the only other year in which he has played 16 games, he finished the campaign with eight sacks and 35 tackles (55 combined). Really, the idea of 2017 being his only good year is not as accurate as we might think.

That being said, I think it's more likely that we see another great year from him this upcoming season than seeing a disappointing one. This, of course, will end up being the main thing that determines his future in Dallas.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 1

Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence

The Dallas Cowboys front office really took a risk by tagging Lawrence this offseason. #90 was reportedly asking for an average of $17M per year in his long-term contract, which is Olivier Vernon kind of money.

So what if he puts a similar season or an even better one? Lawrence and his agent could end up asking for even more money. Perhaps in the 18 or 20 million dollars per year range. If that ends up being the case, the team will find itself in a tough position when trying to reach an agreement with its promising pass rusher.

Which leads us to the possibility of seeing the Cowboys franchise tagging Lawrence for the second consecutive season. Dallas will already be negotiating a contract extension with QB Dak Prescott, and things will get complicated. Even more if they decide to pursue a big-time free agent in March, such as Earl Thomas.

It would make sense, from a financial perspective, to hand the tag twice in consecutive years to D-Law. However, it shouldn't be the priority. If he plays like he did in 2017, the front office will be more than wise to extend him for good.

According to OverTheCap.com, the Cowboys will have approximately $50.6M. Seemingly, the team's cap woes will be over soon.

Fortunately, Lawrence didn't become a headache by threatening to holdout for offseason programs and even training camp. However, don't expect that to happen if he finds himself under the tag next year.

Careers in the NFL are short, so DeMarcus will surely want to get paid. If he keeps it up, he'll deserve it. As much as he deserves it, though, football is a cold business. If the Jones need to tag him, they will.

Do you think the Cowboys will franchise tag Lawrence in 2019?

Tell me what you think about "Will DeMarcus Lawrence Be Franchise Tagged Again in 2019?" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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