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Leighton Vander Esch Lands on List of NFL’s Top 10 Rookies

John Williams

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Leighton Vander Esch Lands on List of NFL's Top 10 Rookies

The Dallas Cowboys made an unsurprising -- if you were following all the pre-draft rumors -- move when they drafted Boise State University Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch with the 19th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. It was one of those picks where many analysts -- including me -- said, "fine player but not worth the 19th overall pick."

Well, the Dallas Cowboys just continue to do what the Dallas Cowboys do and that's hit on their early draft picks.

Leighton Vander Esch has caught the attention of national observers with his play in the first five weeks of the season. His 33 solo tackles are sixth in the NFL and he's only missed one tackle through the first five weeks. In total tackles, Vander Esch is only one behind Middle Linebacker Jaylon Smith, though Vander Esch has eight more solo tackles than Smith.

Pro Football Focus this week released their top 10 rookies at this point of the 2018 season and Leighton Vander Esch ranked second only to Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Here's what Pro Football Focus' William Moy had to say about Vander Esch:


"Vander Esch continued his strong start as a professional with his best game so far in Week 5, earning an 83.5 overall grade against the Houston Texans. The Cowboys first-round pick ranks third among all linebackers this season in terms of overall grade, and he’s the only linebacker to currently own season grades of at least 80.0 in both run defense and coverage. Among the 52 linebackers who’ve made at least 10 tackles in run defense, Vander Esch ranks 10th with an average depth of tackle of just 2.38 yards. He’s also one of just 13 linebackers who has recorded at least 10 tackles in run defense without missing a tackle. In coverage, Vander Esch ranks fifth among linebackers with eight coverage stops. Out of the 55 linebackers who’ve spent at least 100 snaps in coverage this season, he ranks seventh, allowing either a first down or touchdown on just 35.3 percent of the catches into his coverage."

William Moy - Pro Football Focus

 

When Pro Football Focus released their grades for every first round draft pick, Vander Esch had the highest grade among the defensive players selected in the first round. Higher than highly regarded first round Linebackers Roquon Smith of the Chicago Bears and Tremaine Edmunds of the Buffalo Bills.

"Vander Esch played a career-high 80 snaps in Dallas’ overtime loss to the Houston Texans and put on a masterful display for the majority of the night. He accumulated a whopping 12 tackles, seven of which resulted in a defensive stop, and he ended the game with an elite run defense grade of 90.7 – the second-highest single-game mark by a linebacker this season."

Mark Chichester - Pro Football Focus

Leighton Vander Esch has had an excellent start to his NFL career and it seems like the Dallas Cowboys have found the eventual replacement for veteran All-Pro Linebacker Sean Lee as this team's weakside linebacker. In combination with Jaylon Smith in the middle of this defense, they are going to be a tremendously athletic and powerful duo for years to come.

 


Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could. Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.

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Report: Amari Cooper Likely out for the Rest of the Preseason

Matthew Lenix

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Report: Amari Cooper Likely out Until Week 1

Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Amari Cooper is likely out for the remainder of the preseason according to ESPN's Todd Archer. He is currently dealing with a form of plantar fasciitis that has kept him out of practice since August 6th.

The three-time pro bowler changed life in Dallas last season as the team went 7-2 in it's final nine games after he was acquired to win the NFC East. Cooper isn't worried about any long term effects, though, as this is something he's familiar with.

"I'm not worried about it at all, because I know if it does linger, it doesn't matter," Cooper said. "I had 1,000 yards when I played on plantar fasciitis before."


The Cowboys host the Houston Texans this Saturday in what is known as the "dress rehearsal" game before the regular season. Starters normally play about a half of football to get the juices flowing for when games really count in September. Ideally, the plan would be for Cooper and Dak Prescott to get a rhythm of sorts before the season starts but that will have to wait until the team prepares to take on the New York Giants on September 8th.

However, the good thing here is this issue doesn't seem to be serious and Cooper will be ready for the start of the 2019 season.


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Report: Cowboys Agree To Contract Extension With LB Jaylon Smith

Kevin Brady

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Jaylon Smith, Eagles

The Cowboys are neck-deep in contract negotiations with some of their team's most important players, but it appears they have gotten one key guy signed this afternoon.

ESPN's Todd Archer is reporting that the Cowboys have agreed to a contract extension with middle linebacker Jaylon Smith, though the exact terms of the contract have yet to be announced.

Todd Archer on Twitter

The Cowboys have agreed to a contract extension with linebacker Jaylon Smith, according to sources. Smith was set to be a restricted free agent after this season but the Cowboys and his representatives started talks in the spring and they ramped up once camp began. Smith, a...

Of course, the Cowboys drafted Jaylon Smith early in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft despite the horrific leg injury he suffered in Notre Dame's college bowl game. Some didn't think Smith would ever recover to be the same player he once was, but in 2018 Smith emerged as an excellent middle linebacker once again. Smith finished the 2018 season with 121 combined tackles and 4 sacks, and has looked just as imposing thus far in the preseason.


Smith regained his athleticism and sideline to sideline speed, while retaining his impressive hit power and sound tackling to become one of the league's best. Combining Smith with Leighton Vander Esch, the Cowboys have put together arguably the best linebacker group in the NFL.

And now, there's no end in sight for the dynamic duo.


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Report: 2 Dallas Cowboys to be Activated off of P.U.P. List

John Williams

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Auto Draft 6

Per a report from ESPN's Todd Archer, the Dallas Cowboys will soon activate Tyrone Crawford and DeMarcus Lawrence off of the Physically Unable to Perform (P.U.P.) List.

"The Cowboys are planning to activate defensive linemen DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford from the physically unable to perform list on Tuesday, according to a source. They will work through individual drills in their first steps on the field before going through full practices. Lawrence had shoulder surgery not long after signing a five-year, $101 million contract in April. Crawford has been working his way through a hip issue that kept him out of the offseason program. Safety Byron Jones (hip) and receiver Noah Brown (knee) remain on PUP."

Todd Archer - ESPN.com

This report comes after DeMarcus Lawrence had offseason shoulder surgery in April and signed his five-year deal making him the highest-paid player in the history of the Dallas Cowboys, at least for now. It looks as if Lawrence will be ready for a week one return.

It's long been believed that Lawrence would be available for week one of the regular season and hasn't suffered any setbacks to this point that should lead you to believe otherwise. With Robert Quinn suspended for the first two games of the regular season and Randy Gregory's status still up in the air (he still hasn't applied for reinstatement), getting Lawrence and Crawford back for the first two weeks of the season becomes instrumental.


The Dallas Cowboys defensive line has looked really good through the first two games of the preseason, but as good as they've been, they'll need Lawrence and Crawford once the regular season starts. Lawrence will slot back in as the left defensive end and Tyrone Crawford will split snaps at right defensive end with Dorance Armstrong and 3-technique defensive tackle with Maliek Collins, Trysten Hill, and Kerry Hyder.

While the additions of DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford will help the defense tremendously, there still isn't a timeline on the return of Pro Bowl Cornerback Byron Jones. Jones has been out since having hip surgery this offseason.

With as good as the Dallas Cowboys defense has looked this offseason, there's reason to believe that they can be even better once each of these guys are back in the lineup full-time. For a defense that was one of the 10 best defenses in the NFL in 2019, they'll need Lawrence, Crawford, and Jones to make the jump into the elite stratosphere of NFL defenses.

With the Dallas Cowboys' eyes set on capturing that sixth Lombardi Trophy, getting Lawrence and Crawford back in time to be ready for the regular season is vital to starting the 2019 season off right.


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