Defense has been an adventure through the first five games of the season, and not in a good way. It’s gotten to the point where forcing a punt is considered a turnover, because they don’t happen all that often either. One of the big issues the defense has faced is the health of some of their key players. It looks like that unit is getting healthier by the week. After Anthony Brown returned to action in week five against the New York Giants, the Dallas Cowboys got another boost to the lineup with the return of Leighton Vander Esch to practice today.
Last week, it was reported that Vander Esch was ahead of his rehab schedule and began practicing in a limited capacity. Returning to team activities is a huge step in the right direction for Vander Esch and the Dallas Cowboys who need all hands on deck if they’re going to make any movement on their “worst defense in the NFL” status.
The Dallas Cowboys defense has been much maligned through the first five games of 2020. They’ve allowed the most points per game through the early parts of the season, allowing 36 points per game and 34 or more in each of the last four games. Jaylon Smith looked much better last week against the New York Giants and the Cowboys need him to play at a high level for the defense to be better moving forward, but getting Vander Esch back should help everybody.
It remains to be seen what kind of lingering effects Vander Esch will have from his injured and now healed clavicle. In a sport as physical and as violent as the NFL is, there’s certainly a chance he could reinjure his shoulder. The Cowboys 2018 first-round draft pick has been dealing with a neck issue for the last several years as well, here’s hoping a “negative times a negative equals a positive.”
The Dallas Cowboys defense needs Leighton Vander Esch to return to the level of play we saw from him during his rookie season. With as ineffective as their interior defensive line has been against the run, the linebacker group has to be a difference maker and that includes Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith. The Cowboys need their big name players to play big-time games over the next 11 games if they want to have a shot at the playoffs and more.