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Re-Signing LB Anthony Hitchens is a Must for Cowboys

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Anthony Hitchens
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys still have four games left in the 2017 season, but this offseason may already be on the minds of those in the Cowboys front office. This offseason, the Cowboys have multiple key players hitting free agency: DeMarcus Lawrence, David Irving, Jonathan Cooper, Alfred Morris, and Anthony Hitchens.

That last guy on my list may be the most underappreciated player on the team.

When you're in the same free agent pool as DeMarcus Lawrence, who leads the NFL in sacks with 13.5, and David Irving, who has been on a tear of late (7.0 sacks in just eight games), it's understandable to fly somewhat under the radar. But allowing Anthony Hitchens to sign elsewhere would be a massive mistake for the Dallas Cowboys.

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Cowboys LB Anthony Hitchens (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

In his four years with the Cowboys, Anthony Hitchens has improved each season and this year he has finally broken out. In his first three years with the team Hitchens has 36 starts, 220 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 1 interception.

Not only has he been great at middle linebacker, but he's also slid in and played WILL linebacker at a high level when asked to.

Hitchens' position flexibility is something this defense heavily relies on.

After suffering a foot injury in a preseason game against the Oakland Raiders, some initially thought that his season would be over. Hitchens missed just four games in the beginning of the year and came back to be one of the few bright spots on a defense that has been extremely inconsistent all season.

In eight games, Hitchens has 40 tackles, and has been a force stopping the run. The fourth-year player has had to play multiple linebacker positions due to the injuries of Sean Lee, and the inconsistent play of Jaylon Smith and Justin Durant.

Wherever Anthony Hitchens is asked to play he does his job at an extremely high level.

Jon Machota on Twitter

The runner was ruled down, but what a crazy effort by Anthony Hitchens to strip the ball upside down in the air https://t.co/xOd570ZKqO

If his level of play hasn't impressed the Cowboys' front office enough to re-sign him, the lack of talent and depth at linebacker definitely should.

At the end of the 2017 season, the Cowboys linebacker depth chart will look a little something like this:

  • Sean Lee
  • Jaylon Smith
  • Damien Wilson

That is not ideal after seeing the struggles of both Jaylon Smith and Damien Wilson, and the injury history of Sean Lee.

This Defense Lacks Physicality Without Hitchens

Hitchens always seems to be around the football and that shows from his 15 total tackles from the Washington game last week.

While he's not quite on the same level as Sean Lee, Hitchens does a very good job of shooting the right gaps and taking good angles on ball carriers. His play against the run and the little bit of work he does in coverage, makes him one of the best defenders on the Cowboys' roster.

https://twitter.com/aRwarriorX/status/936410936470056960

The Cowboys' defense by no means has been great in 2017, but it's tough to think about what the defense would look like if Anthony Hitchens isn't on the roster.

Re-signing a player that stays relatively healthy and has the position flexibility of Anthony Hitchens is a no-brainer for me. Let's hope the Dallas front office feels the same way.

Must Anthony Hitchens be re-signed this offseason? Let me know below!


Born in 1995, loved Football but more importantly the Dallas Cowboys since day one. Living in Redskins Country flying the Blue and Silver flag as high as possible. Covering the Dallas Cowboys for InsideTheStar.com and CowboysNation.com. Catch me on twitter @ConnorNFLDraft!

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6 Comments
  • blaine

    I think Hitchens has earned a new contract. However, that shouldn’t deter the team from seeking linebacker talent in the draft(Roquon Smith/Malik Jefferson). Hitchens is the perfect plug and play player, and it seems to behoove him to come off the bench in Marinelli’s rotating scheme. Just my opinion.

    • EverybodyTalks

      Totally agree. I still want the boys to grab an ILB in the draft. Roquan in the 1st, would be great. He even looks like Sean Lee in his play. If not him, there are some very good ILBs in the 2nd and 3rd rounds also.

  • oneputter

    i do like hitchens, solid LB who has become the “thumper” of the group. he is a must re-sign.

    i am also a fan of wilson. he quietly plays his game while making a lot of plays, he can also lay the wood. i do think he needs to be used in blitz packages a more. hopefully 57 works on his coverage skills over the off season something he needs to improve on, he needs to return as well.

    regarding the video of him blowing up the TE, you saw what happened to Paul (TE) last time he tried to lead block, 50 put his but to sleep…..he wanted no more of it.

  • Donald Mabus

    Hitchens is a rotational guy at best. He misses way too many tackles trying to lower the boom. Wrap the runner up and bring them down. That is something the whole team needs to work on. Hitchens also lacks coverage skills.

  • Hector Espindola

    Yes, he must be re-signed! Specially if Lee goes down again. I don’t know if there will be enough money to sign all those free agents, but I do know the team does not have a “quality next man up”, except for Rod Smith, who can be a fine replacement of Morris.

  • Bilbo Baggin

    Ya if we can afford Lawrence,Irving and him. Love those first 2 playing together if they can stay off the suspended list or injury list. We need stud corners in the draft though hope they let McClay pick this one.

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Despite Going Undrafted, Kameron Kelly A Welcome Addition to Cowboys Secondary

Sean Martin

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Despite Going Undrafted, Kameron Kelly A Welcome Addition to Cowboys Secondary 1

The Dallas Cowboys best move of the offseason may very well be hiring Kris Richard as their new passing game coordinator. Despite not signing any free agents or drafting added talent for Richard to work with in the secondary, the Cowboys have plenty of reasons to feel great about their current starters - along with an intriguing class of UDFAs.

The prospects of Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Byron Jones, and Xavier Woods working with Richard to sharpen their skills with Seattle's "Legion of Boom" fabricator is as good as it gets. In a very short period of time, the cornerback position has turned into one of the hardest spots for fringe players to make the Dallas Cowboys roster.

Don't tell this to San Diego State's Kameron Kelly. Neither Richard or Kelly may be household names around the NFL, but San Francisco 49ers Cornerback Richard Sherman certainly is. Sherman also happens to be the player the Cowboys are looking for Kelly -- an undrafted free agent that didn't receive a single college offer from "power five" schools -- to emulate.

Despite Going Undrafted, Kameron Kelly A Welcome Addition to Cowboys Secondary

Dallas Cowboys Passing Game Cooridinator Kris Richard with Richard Sherman

Given all that Sherman meant to Richard's defenses since being drafted by his Seahawks in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, these feel like impossible expectations for Kelly to live up to.

The 6015 (6' 1 5/8") defender didn't even play the same position as Sherman until his final collegiate season, slowly making the transition from WR to DB at SDSU by starting as a Sophomore and Junior at safety.

Now just another player in a blue jersey with white numbers at The Star, Kelly is looking to earn the star on a team that may look to remain young, deep, and most importantly versatile in the secondary by keeping one or more UDFAs.

That is, if any of these long shot players deserve a spot on the final 53-man roster. Kelly already has an edge on this field, blessed with the length and daunting frame that allows Richard and the Cowboys to dream of featuring their own Richard Sherman.

"I think he’s trying to turn me into his next Richard Sherman or something". - Dallas Cowboys Cornerback Kameron Kelly

Kris Richard is going to coach everybody he comes across hard. He knows no other way. Kam Kelly is already embracing this, seeing the Cowboys vision for him and not backing down from the challenge.

Turn on the tape for this "diamond in the rough" prospect, and you'll see a player that carries this same competitive toughness onto the field.

Mike Mayock on Twitter

Will a DB compete / tackle ? Top of screen- flat footed read on bubble- trusts eyes and goes ! Just checking boxes- I see you, kameron Kelly of SDSU.... https://t.co/fJM4s16Eq1

Kelly joins Charvarius Ward, Donovan Olumba, and Tyree Robinson as the Cowboys class of UDFAs at both cornerback and safety. An athletic DB out of Oregon, Robinson has made a strong initial impression with several plays on the ball in drills so far.

However, it was Kam Kelly that set up an interception for Jameill Showers in yesterday's practice by getting in the face of rookie Wide Receiver Michael Gallup.

Projecting anything that resembles a starting lineup for the Cowboys defense in the last week of May is silly. So too is realistically expecting Kelly, Ward, Olumba, or Robinson to ever crack this lineup.

Despite Going Undrafted, Kameron Kelly A Welcome Addition to Cowboys Secondary 2

Dallas Cowboys CB Kameron Kelly

The Cowboys could find themselves without enough practice snaps to go around for starting caliber players like Awuzie, Lewis, Jones, Anthony Brown, and even Marquez White. This does not bode well for Kam Kelly, who is only going to continue generating buzz from fans and the Dallas media.

For now, Kelly is getting his chance though. The Cowboys are ever-so-slowly getting back into form for 2018 - doing so with many familiar faces no longer on the roster. This team is going to look different on both sides of the ball come September, and Cowboys Nation can only hope it's for the better given the impressive amount of depth all over the field.

Kam Kelly won't back down from the depth the Cowboys have at CB, expecting to impress his new coach Kris Richard in the mold of three-time All-Pro Richard Sherman.

Tell us what you think about "Despite Going Undrafted, Kameron Kelly A Welcome Addition to Cowboys Secondary" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!


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Rico Gathers’ Absence in 2018 Wasn’t About Health

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Rico Gathers, Rams

A sixth-round pick out of Baylor University, Rico Gathers was supposed to be one hell of a football story. A basketball superstar, Gathers hadn't played college football at all, but the traits he had were enough for the Dallas Cowboys to take a chance on him during the final day of the 2016 NFL Draft to find a potential heir to Jason Witten.

After spending his entire rookie season developing in the practice squad, it felt like Gathers would have his chance in 2017. However, after suffering a concussion in the preseason, he never saw the field during the regular season. Despite initially making the 53-man roster, he was quickly placed on injured reserve.

Cowboys Nation hoped to see him back after the mandatory eight weeks in IR, but the much-anticipated comeback never took place.

The narrative was that the concussion was more serious than previously thought and that there was also a jaw injury involved. And through it all, there were some whispers about Gathers' absence being more coaching related than health related.

Last Wednesday, the former Baylor basketball star talked to the media about his situation and brought some very interesting responses to the table.

Brandon George on Twitter

Cowboys TE Rico Gathers said he was cleared from his concussion after Week 7 last year to return to practice. "But I could just tell by the drift of the season and the drift of the coaching staff that I probably wasn't going to play this last year anyway.

If his comments are true, it really confirms that the fact that Gathers didn't get any playing time at all last season wasn't only concussion-related. If he was truly ready to go since week 8, then him not being on the field shows how the Cowboys coaching staff isn't sold on the player like the fans are.

Sure, it'd be one hell of a story. And of course, he seemed to make a statement during the preseason. However, it's not like Dallas had very special backup tight ends behind Jason Witten. As much as it hates to admit it, maybe Gathers simply isn't as good as some thought he was.

This was not the only interesting comment from Rico as he also said that the jaw injury never happened, claiming that was something media-related. This obviously brings up an even more interesting question: Was the team lying about Gathers' health to keep him on IR and avoid having to get him on the practice squad and risking him being pouched by another team?

We might never get to know the absolute truth in this case, but it's still worth noting.

Right now, Gathers' fight is all about making it to the regular season.

Brandon George on Twitter

Rico Gathers: "The biggest thing for me this year is just making it to the regular season. I have to make sure I'm healthy and make sure I'm able to be on somebody's 53-man roster.

"Somebody's 53-man roster" is the quote that sticks out from this comment. If Gathers makes it to a roster for the 2018 season, it just might not be with the Dallas Cowboys. Perhaps it's for the best. The team has a chance to give Dalton Schultz an important role from day 1 and continue with Geoff Swaim's and Blake Jarwin's development going forward.

Rico Gathers may still be in the picture, for sure, but don't be surprised if he's shown the door before expected. I think every fan out there agrees that having a kid who hadn't played football since he was 13-years old turn into a quality starter in the league would've been remarkable.

But it's time to realize that that doesn't look to be the case.

Right now, Gathers is fighting for a spot on the roster. He's going to have to put up a big fight if he's to prove he's worthy of wearing the Star. Luckily for the Dallas Cowboys, with a deep TE room, they won't be desperately relying on his success to find the new starting tight end of the franchise.

Tell me what you think about "Rico Gathers’ Absence in 2018 Wasn’t About Health" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!


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Cowboys RB Bo Scarbrough Tabbed to “Exceed Expectations” in Rookie Season

Sean Martin

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Cowboys RB Bo Scarbrough Tabbed to "Exceed Expectations" in Rookie Season

Given their rich history at the position, and current resources allocated to the running game, the addition of any running backs to the Dallas Cowboys roster is always noteworthy. Making two-time national champion Running Back Bo Scarbrough their last pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Cowboys did as well as they could at 236th overall.

Naturally, a prospect that played at Alabama has garnered plenty of attention as a potential compliment to Ezekiel Elliott in Dallas. This would of course be exceptional value for the Cowboys to get out of their ninth player drafted.

NFL.com's Lance Zierlein gets much further into the draft than just the recognizable players such as Scarbrough. This is why it's noteworthy to see the rookie back land on his list of "seven late-round picks likely to exceed expectations in 2018".

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In his brief overview of the loaded backfield that Scarbrough finds himself in, Zierlein writes that:

"Ezekiel Elliott is clearly capable of handling the lion's share of duties on all three downs, but Scarbrough is a downhill runner who has the size and demeanor to help the Cowboys continue to impose their will on the ground when Elliott is resting. I can envision Scarbrough thriving in a complementary role similar to the one the Titans' Derrick Henry has played behind DeMarco Murray for much of his career. Landing Scarbrough in the seventh round could turn out to be a tremendous steal this season."

The name clearly missing from this quote is Rod Smith. Likely posing the biggest threat to Scarbrough's roster spot, Smith embodies what the Cowboys are looking for in a back that can do it all - spelling Elliott as a capable runner and receiver while also contributing on special teams.

Proving himself on just 55 carries for 232 yards this season, Smith's roster spot feels safe entering 2018. As seventh round picks should have to do in making a contending team's roster, Scarbrough will have to excel in ways he never did at Alabama in order to earn a spot behind Smith.

Should Cowboys Offer Rod Smith a Contract Extension?

Dallas Cowboys RB Rod Smith (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

It's also interesting to see Zierlein mention former Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray in the scheme of two physical running backs coexisting.

If their better understanding of what Rod Smith can do on offense wasn't enough of an indicator, the Cowboys also traded for two backfield additions this offseason in Tavon Austin and Fullback Jamize Olawale.

There is little doubt that the Cowboys will hold true in their commitment to backfield depth again this season. The versatility and overall readiness of this unit is a direct extension of the best positional group in the league, being the Cowboys offensive line.

The idea of handing the ball to Bo Scarbrough late in games against a defense already shredded by Elliott is a great one for Cowboys Nation. It is one that many national writers will continue to mention in their discussions of how the Cowboys can return to form after a surprising 9-7 setback last year.

Unless Scarbrough is able to elevate his game on special teams or as a pass catcher, he faces an uphill battle to live up to nearly any expectations on the table for him right now. Nonetheless, the Cowboys have an exciting player to utilize this summer through the preseason in hopes of maximizing Scarbrough's upside.

In his more in-depth scouting report of Scarbrough, Zierlein sees the player similarly, giving him an overall grade of 5.50. This translates to Scarbrough having a "chance to become an NFL starter," a position happily occupied by Ezekiel Elliott for hopefully years to come in Dallas.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys RB Bo Scarbrough Tabbed to “Exceed Expectations” in Rookie Season" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!


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