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LB Leighton Vander Esch Returns to Practice, How Much Should He Play at Panthers?

Sean Martin

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1st Round Pick Leighton Vander Esch Returns to Practice, How Much Should He Play at Panthers?
(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

For the second year in a row, the Cowboys have high expectations as a team despite not expecting much of an impact from their first round pick. Last year's 28th overall selection, Michigan Defensive End Taco Charlton, has progressed nicely entering year two - something the Cowboys are hopeful will happen at a much faster rate with Combine standout Leighton Vander Esch. Their 19th overall pick out of Boise State, the athletic linebacker only appeared in the Cowboys preseason opener before sitting out the remaining three games with a groin injury.

Kate Hairopoulos on Twitter

Rookie LB Leighton Vander Esch went through full practice and said he's 100 percent after missing time to a groin strain. "It feels awesome to be back out there" he said. "Just working on getting back in shape just a little bit.

The Cowboys have been understandably cautious with Vander Esch, as groin injuries can linger throughout a season. According to LVE himself though, he'll presumably be available to play on Sunday against the Panthers.

Going back to fan and media reactions from April 26th, when the Cowboys made Vander Esch the first player to be drafted in his new home stadium, is an exercise in futility well beyond the scope of what Leighton currently means to the Cowboys defense.

At the time, despite being criticized for the pick, the Cowboys had too big of a need at linebacker to ignore.

Three days away from playing a meaningful game, the Cowboys can feel much better about their linebackers even without Vander Esch. Jaylon Smith has emerged as a healthy starter that should prove very difficult to take off the field, and the same is of course said about team captain Sean Lee at the moment.

Veteran Damien Wilson is also expected to start at SAM linebacker, where solid depth pieces like Joe Thomas and Justin March-Lillard could also see time.

Point being, the Cowboys don't need to rush Vander Esch into anything this week, but should be looking to steadily work the rookie into MIKE linebacker duties. This is ultimately what Vander Esch was drafted for, and it will take time for the Cowboys to be comfortable with a player as raw as Leighton starting at this position.

Sean Martin ✭ on Twitter

Round 1: LB Leighton Vander Esch - Boise State "When given a chance in the hole against backs, LVE rarely misses in stopping the player in his tracks, bringing his 33 7/8" arms through every tackle." https://t.co/idoqIwvzXg

New Cowboys Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard will have his say in not only the team's secondary, but the deployment of the linebackers, which could turn Vander Esch's strong coverage skills into a legitimate weapon for the Dallas defense.

Given the match ups the Carolina Panthers look to create with Christian McCaffrey and Greg Olsen, the Cowboys could very well be expecting Vander Esch to play just as many snaps as Smith or Lee.

The fact that this doesn't have to be the case for Dallas if they don't choose to is a great sign however. The Cowboys should be very pleased with the progress of their linebackers this offseason. While it's fair to be skeptical of their own evaluation of the roster prior to drafting LVE for need in the top 20, this is still a player that will help them throughout his first season.

It will take the Cowboys playing LVE to his strengths and protecting him early in the season a bit, something this groin injury (a thing of the past now) helps them do. The most recent pride of the Boise State Broncos to end up on America's Team starts his journey towards truly earning the star this Sunday.

Tell us what you think about "LB Leighton Vander Esch Returns to Practice, How Much Should He Play at Panthers?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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BREAKING: Cowboys Sign Ex-Packers WR Randall Cobb

Brian Martin

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BREAKING: Cowboys Sign Ex-Packers WR Randall Cobb

According to multiple sources, the Dallas Cowboys have signed former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb to a one-year deal to help bolster their depth at the WR position and potentially become Cole Beasley's replacement.

Adam Schefter on Twitter

Cowboys are giving former Packers' WR Randall Cobb a one-year, $5 million deal, per source. https://t.co/8KWFPjSP8T

The Dallas Cowboys met with Randall Cobb earlier this week, but he eventually left Dallas without a contract. He must've had a change of heart or just needed time to ponder the Cowboys offer, but regardless of what transpired in that short time he is now part of America's Team.

During his time with the Packers, Cobb accumulated 470 receptions for 5,524 receiving yards and 41 touchdowns. The eight-year veteran will now be expected to replace some of Cole Beasley's production out of the slot for the Dallas Cowboys.

After years of watching Beasley as the Cowboys slot WR, it will be really interesting to see Randall Cobb in that role. He's not as quick twitched as No. 11, but can be just as dangerous due to his ability to be more of a down the field receiver. He also brings added value in the return game and could compete with Tavon Austin to become the return specialist.

This could mean the Cowboys forgo drafting a wide receiver early in the 2019 NFL Draft, but I wouldn't put it past them. Regardless of what happens, this is an excellent addition.

Welcome to Cowboys Nation Randall Cobb!



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REPORT: Dallas Cowboys Re-sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur

Jess Haynie

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L.P. Ladouceur

L.P. Ladouceur is returning for his 15th season as the Cowboys' long snapper. The veteran free agent was re-signed by Dalals today to a one-year deal.

Thanks to Jason Witten's one-year sabbatical with Monday Night Football, Ladouceur has now been with the Cowboys for more consecutive seasons than any current player. He just turned 38 last week, but Louis-Philippe remains one of the top long snappers in football.

Todd Archer on Twitter

The Cowboys have signed long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur to a one-year deal worth $1.03 million and $90,000 in bonus money, but he will count $735,000 against the cap. This will be Ladouceur's 15th season with the Cowboys, tying Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Mark... https://t.co/2iDsi6RX7e

Retaining Ladouceur is an underrated move for the Cowboys given their situation at kicker.

Brett Maher was only 80% accurate overall on field goals last year. The team could be considering an upgrade in free agency.

Whether they bring Maher back or try someone new, having a long snapper with Ladouceur's performance perfection will make things much easier for them.



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REPORT: Police Detain Cowboys DL Tyrone Crawford After Bar Fight

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys DT Tyrone Crawford Kicked Off Thursday Flight

According to TMZ, Tyrone Crawford was involved in a brawl at a bar in Panama City, FL last Friday night. The Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman and team captain was detained by police but apparently was not arrested.

The level of Crawford's involvement has not been substantiated, but TMZ's report does have him shoving police officers at some point in the action. The incident was reportedly captured by surveillance equipment at the bar.

Given that he was not arrested, one could assume that Tyrone was not one of the primary players in the melee. But that doesn't mean the NFL won't still review this matter as it relates to the personal conduct policy, and Cowboys fans know too well how "fair" that process can be.

This is certainly not a story you'd expect to see attached to Tyrone Crawford, who has been a model citizen and leader since entering the league in 2012.

Dallas elected to keep Crawford this season despite solid potential savings. He will count $10.1 million against their 2019 salary cap, which is high for his average production. However, he can play multiple positions and is one of their most experienced players.

Even if Tyrone were to get suspended by the league, it likely wouldn't be more than a one or two-game ban given his record and reputation. It shouldn't change anything about his status with the team.



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