Yesterday, Pro Football Focus, a site that watches the film and hands out grades on each individual player in the NFL, released it's top five overall grades at linebacker for the 2018 season. Not that we should be surprised, but Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith both appeared on this top five list.
Bobby Wagner is the highest graded linebacker in the NFL through 16 weeks.
We see it every Sunday, so we know how good they've been from a Dallas Cowboys context, but being on a top five list with Bobby Wagner and Luke Kuechly should tell you that we are watching something special happening. Wagner and Kuechly have long been considered two of the best linebackers in the NFL and both have been rewarded with Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections, deservedly so.
There is only one other team that features two linebackers in Pro Football Focus' top 10 and the is the Carolina Panthers with Kuechly checking in at number two and Thomas Davis at number 10. The Cowboys and the Panthers are the only teams to have two linebackers in the top 15 at their position as well.
We're watching something special, even if we don't truly appreciate it. Ever since Rod Marinelli took over this defense, I've been patiently, and at times not so patiently, waiting for this team's version of Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. Finally, we may have it.
What's amazing about what these two are doing, is that they're doing it at such a young age, with very little experience. Leighton Vander Esch is a 21-year-old rookie who just played his 15th NFL game after starting for only one season at Boise State after he walked on because as an eight-man football player he got zero scholarship offers. Jaylon Smith is 23, has had to overcome that devastating Fiesta Bowl knee injury he suffered at the end of his college career. He spent his rookie season in 2016 rehabbing and 2017 playing mostly as a part-time player before taking the reigns at middle linebacker this season.
The results have been spectacular and they're a duo that hasn't even reached the limits of what they're capable of and that should scare the rest of the NFC.
On the season, Leighton Vander Esch is third in total tackles and second in solo tackles, according to Pro Football Reference. Vander Esch's two interceptions has him tied for fifth at the linebacker position. The rookie is also third in the NFL in stops, which are recorded by Pro Football Focus as a "play that results in a loss for the offense." Vander Esch is in the Defensive Rookie of the Year discussion, which should say a lot about the way he's played.
Jaylon Smith is 13th in the NFL in solo tackles. Among linebackers, Jaylon Smith is tied for seventh in the NFL with four sacks and is 12th in the league with 15 total pressures, per Pro Football Focus. Jaylon ranks 16th in the NFL in PFF's stops statistic.
By many measures and when you watch the games or any all-22 film, you see an explosive, athletic, and fast duo that has wrecked opposing game plans all season long. You can see why the Dallas Cowboys were willing to make Sean Lee a healthy inactive in a win and clinch game. It also makes it hard to believe that either of these guys didn't make the Pro Bowl.
Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch are a big part of the reason that the Cowboys defense is playing as well as it is this year, and if this year is any indication, the Cowboys will be fielding a really nice defense for a long time coming.
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.
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!
REPORT: Dallas Cowboys Re-sign Long Snapper 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.
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.
REPORT: Police Detain Cowboys DL Tyrone Crawford After Bar Fight
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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