When the Dallas Cowboys drafted Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft it wasn’t received with open arms from the fan base. However, he would quickly turn heads with his elite level of play in only his first year on the field. He was so good that he earned Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors and was one of the leaders of the Cowboys top 7 ranked defense. With expectations through the roof in 2019, Vander Esch is off to another fast start.
Just like last season, Vander Esch displayed the speed, power, and aggression that made him a household name against the New York Giants last Sunday. He racked up 10 tackles (9 solo), 1 pass defended and a forced fumble. This puts him on pace for 160 tackles for the season which would shatter what he did as a rookie. Of his 140 tackles last season 102 were solo. That’s what’s probably the most impressive thing to me about him is his ability to bring down ball carriers/pass catchers on his own.
The best play he made versus the Giants is in the clip above. Vander Esch does a great job of changing direction and pursuing Eli Manning as he picked up a half-sack along with DeMarcus Lawrence. This was a crucial fourth-down stop considering if the Giants scored a touchdown it would’ve made the score 28-17 with more than a quarter to play, and as we know in the game of football, momentum is a powerful weapon.
Another nice play made by Vander Esch in the clip above came in the fourth quarter. He does a nice job reading Eli Manning’s eyes while simultaneously keeping Tight End Evan Engram in front of him long enough that it makes a difficult throw for Eli Manning down the seam. High pointing the ball he almost comes down with an interception. He had two interceptions last season and it looks like he’ll have more in 2019.
This Sunday the Cowboys face bitter division rival the Washington Redskins on the road. Defense generally travels on the road and they’ll definitely need a solid effort on that side of the ball to get their second division win in two weeks. Vander Esch hasn’t missed a beat coming off his spectacular rookie campaign and it looks like another Pro Bowl/All-Pro season is on the horizon.