Leighton Vander Esch, Brian Urlacher Comparison Not Far Off After Year 1

It’s completely unfair to compare an unproven, incoming into the NFL to a player, but that’s exactly what the Dallas and several draft “analysts” did by comparing Leighton Vander Esch to Brian Urlacher a little over a year ago. It was pretty laughable at the time, but not so much now after the way Vander Esch played his rookie season.

Leighton Vander Esch
Dallas Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a problem admitting I was one of the ones laughing at the Leighton Vander Esch comparisons to Brian Urlacher leading up to the 2018 . It was hard to envision someone who only played eight-man football in high school and didn’t to become a starter until his junior season, his last, before deciding to turn pro being anywhere near as good as one of the best to ever play the position.

Surprisingly though, maybe those comparisons weren’t that far off after all. Vander Esch quieted all of his critics with his play last year. He played so well in fact, he made an afterthought, thus becoming the Dallas Cowboys starting weak side linebacker in 2018 and hopefully for years to come. But, how did his rookie season compare to Urlacher’s?

Let’s take a look at Leighton Vander Esch and Hall of Fame LB Brian Urlacher’s stats after their rookie seasons in the NFL…

Brian Urlacher (2000)

Games Games Started Tackles Interceptions Pass Defensed Fumble Recovery
16 14 125 2 5 1 8

Leighton Vander Esch (2018)

Games Games Started Tackles Interceptions Pass Defensed Fumble Recovery Sacks
16 11 140 2 7

After Year 1, it looks as if Leighton Vander Esch had a better rookie season then Brian Urlacher. That in itself is pretty impressive, especially considering Urlacher started three more games than Vander Esch in their first years in the NFL. But, all of the other numbers are pretty similar across the board.

Leighton Vander Esch
Dallas Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch

I think it’s also important to understand Urlacher and Vander Esch played different positions, although they are both linebackers. During his time with the , Urlacher played middle linebacker, where as Vander Esch plays weak side LB with the Dallas Cowboys. But, that’s not really why they were compared to one another pre-draft last year.

Leighton Vander Esch and Brian Urlacher were compared to one another last year because of their similar playing styles. These two are both big, physical linebackers with the speed to cover the entire field from sideline to sideline. Oddly enough, these kind of LBs are a rarity in today’s NFL were smaller, speedier players are now the norm.

Regardless though, I just thought it was really interesting to see Leighton Vander Esch actually compared to Brian Urlacher after their rookie seasons in the NFL. Not only are they pretty similar based on their stats, but they also both made the after Year 1. How impressive is that!?

Hopefully, No. 55 can keep it up and follow in the footsteps of Brian Urlacher all the way to the Hall of Fame. I’m pretty sure all of the would be okay with that.

Do you think Leighton Vander Esch can have a Brian Urlacher-like career?

What do you think?


Written by Brian Martin

Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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