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.
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.
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.
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.