With reports that starting linebacker Leighton Vander Esch is probably out for the Dallas Cowboys’ Week 9 battle with the New York Giants, a major opportunity may be in the works for backup Joe Thomas. He stands to get plenty of playing time in what will likely be one of the most-watched games of the year on Monday Night Football.
Thomas is in his second and final year of his current contract with Dallas. Thought he hasn’t been able to start any games with the Cowboys, which he did eight times in his last two seasons with the Packers, Thomas has proven to be a reliable and versatile reserve.
Joe may still not get an official start on Monday night. Even if Vander Esch is out, the big two will still be Jaylon Smith and Sean Lee among Cowboys linebackers. Dallas would have to open the game in a formation that require three linebackers, and that depends entirely on what look the Giants start with on offense.
Far more important than putting a start in his resume, though, is what Joe Thomas does with the playing time he does get. And it stands to be plenty.
Even though Sean Lee will be coming off the bye week and is well rested, he’s still a 33-year-old player who hasn’t had to play major minutes in a while. Thomas will get a lot of work in rotation.
We’ve seen that Joe has a nose for the football and is capable of making plays even in pass defense. That could be big with rookie Daniel Jones at QB for New York, whose recently been a turnover factory with seven interceptions and seven fumbles in his last six games.
If the addition of Michael Bennett to the defensive line has an immediate impact, we could see Jones under heavy fire all night. And we all know the effect that pressure has on young quarterbacks.
Turning 29 next year and hitting unrestricted free agency, Joe Thomas needs a few big moments this year to help his marketability. A turnover on prime-time television, with most of the football world watching, would be a boost to his offseason capital.
We talked in the offseason about how deep this Cowboys roster is compared to the past. Thomas was one of the players who led to that talk, and hopefully tomorrow night’s game will allow him to prove what an asset he is.