When Anthony Hitchens laid on his back in pain during the Cowboys preseason game against the Oakland Raiders, no one expected him to be ready to play before the bye week. And, yet, here we are.
Hitchens told reporters on Thursday that he will be available to play on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, and his return could not come at a better time.
Last week, the Los Angeles Rams abused and exploited the Dallas Cowboys linebackers. As great of a story as Jaylon Smith is, he struggled to defeat blocks and fill his run fits adequately during much of the Cowboys' loss. While Smith has caught most of the heat, his fellow linebackers Justin Durant, Kyle Wilber, and Damien Wilson all had really bad days as well.
Hitchens has caught some hell from this fanbase over the last two seasons, but there's no doubt he will be the Cowboys' best linebacker this Sunday if Sean Lee is forced to miss another game.
Despite any of his own faults, Hitchens must be leaned on heavily this week and beyond, at least until Lee is healthy and Jaylon Smith finds his way. Hitchens also had a very impressive training camp this summer and looked to play well during his time in the preseason before his injury.
It is expected that if Pro Bowl linebacker Sean Lee does miss Sunday's game, Hitchens will move from MIKE to WILL, replacing Lee. In this case, Jaylon Smith will remain at MIKE backer. Sean Lee's eventual return will force the Cowboys to make some interesting decisions at linebacker, but I'd expect Hitchens to be the full-time starter at MIKE initially with Smith seeing time rotationally.
If the Cowboys are to slow down the prolific Packers offense, they are going to need Anthony Hitchens to look rather impressive in his season debut.