When the Dallas Cowboys line up on defense on September 13th against the Los Angeles Rams, Cowboys fans will be keeping a close eye on the player wearing #55. Leighton Vander Esch had a remarkable rookie season in 2018 that he failed to follow up in 2019 as he missed seven games due to a neck injury that required surgery.
Since then, we’ve been left wondering about his health. Plenty of fans, analysts, and reporters discussed Vander Esch’s health over the past few months but no one had any idea of his actual status since NFL teams were not able to hold offseason activities on team facilities and instead held a virtual offseason.
But now, as training camp ends and the regular season approaches, we have a better idea of where the young linebacker stands. So far, it’s nothing but good news.
Vander Esch is not only healthy, but he’s been one of the best defensive players on training camp for the Cowboys. And judging by this Todd Archer tweet, he seems ready for the Los Angeles Rams.
Leighton Vander Esch is ready for the season. He was salty Monday. From the start to end of practice, he might’ve been the best defender for the Cowboys. The neck problem didn’t appear to be an issue in camp but let’s see what happens in a less controlled environment.
For the Cowboys, the fact that Vander Esch got through camp without missing any significant time is worthy of a huge sigh of relief. But even better is the fact that he was constantly mentioned by reporters as one of the standout players from practice.
Keep in mind, his responsibilities will increase in 2020 as he takes over as the team’s middle linebacker in Mike Nolan’s defense. In the last couple of seasons, Jaylon Smith was the “mike.” However, Smith is expected to be deployed on the outside as the weakside linebacker in order to exploit his skill set even more while the former first-round pick takes over the middle.
It sounds like Vander Esch is all for it.
Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch enjoys being Mike linebacker, making calls in huddle and getting teammates lined up. “I want the weight to be on my shoulders.”
For Leighton Vander Esch, all the pieces seem to be in place for him to bounce back after a somewhat disappointing 2019. Mike Nolan has been rumored to be a big fan of #55 since the 2018 Draft and playing him in the middle makes almost too much sense.
“[…] I thought because of the size thing with Leighton that taking on people may be a little strength,” said Mike Nolan a few weeks ago in a press conference.
The one thing that might stand in the way between Vander Esch and a huge 2020 is his health. Prior to the 2018 NFL Draft, some teams went as far as taking him off the board because of health-related red flags. The question becomes: Will be if he can overcome his injury history without hiccups before he becomes another “I wish he could’ve stayed healthy” type of player?
Just over a week away from the regular season, Vander Esch is as healthy as ever. When the defense takes the field to face Sean McVay’s Rams, he’ll be staring right at Jared Goff. He’s ready.