If you believe the talk around the water cooler, Sean Lee is going to be the Dallas Cowboys starting strong side (SAM) linebacker in 2019.
On paper this looks like a brilliant move. It puts the Cowboys best three linebackers (Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and Sean Lee) on the field the same time when they are in their base defense. It should also help “General Lee” healthwise since the SAM LB over the last three years (Damien Wilson) never played more than 30% of the defensive snaps.
But, we all know No. 50 has struggled to remain healthy for an entire season pretty much his whole career. What happens if he once again succumbs to the injury bug? Who do the Dallas Cowboys plan on making his backup?
I think second-year LB Chris Covington, not to be confused with DT Christian Covington, could get the first crack at becoming Lee's backup. At 6'2″, 245 pounds, he has the size to play SAM, but he's unproven and will have to prove himself in training camp and preseason to become a serious consideration.
There may be a dark course candidate to become Sean Lee's primary backup.
Luke Gifford, an undrafted LB out of Nebraska, was supposedly pretty impressive in previous summer workouts. He's been spoken pretty highly of already, but like Covington needs to prove himself. Could he be another undrafted hidden gem?
Dallas Cowboys Staff Writer Bryan Broaddus seems to like what he's seen so far from Gifford.
“If there is a young linebacker to keep an eye on I have a sneaky feeling about Gifford. This kid has a nose for the ball. He plays well on the move and he's a finisher when he gets into position to make plays. Gifford can play both inside and out which gives him that flexibility coaches covet. Where Gifford is going to have to make his mark is in these padded practices and then in preseason games. I have already seen flashes of traits and instincts and range which makes me believe he could pull this off.”
You can't help but like the way Broaddus talks about Luke Gifford. He sounds like the kind of depth player the Cowboys like due to his versatility and skill set, but he's going to have to continue to prove himself when the pads come on if he wants to stick around. That's the life of an undrafted free agent though.
It may seem a little odd to talk abbout backup players this early, but because of Sean Lee's inability to remain healthy it could be an important position battle to keep an eye on once training camp gets underway. I know I'm going to be keeping a close eye on Chris Covington (#59) and Luke Gifford (#57). What about you?