#59 Anthony Hitchens
Anthony Hitchens was born in Lorain, Ohio on June 10, 1992. He played his collegiate football career at the University of Iowa. He is a linebacker in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys, who drafted him in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Anthony Hitchens went to Clearview High School in Lorain, Ohio. He was a three-sport athlete in high school, playing football, basketball, and track.
Hitchens may have been a three-sport athlete in high school, but it was on the football field where he made a name for himself.
Anthony Hitchens was a two-way player at Clearview High School and finished his high school career as the all-time leading rusher with 3,864 yards, and holds the single-game record for most rushing yards with 354. He also caught 16 passes for 213 yards and four touchdowns. As a kick returner in high school, he returned two kickoffs for touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the ball, Anthony Hitchens recorded 154 career tackles, 12 quarterback sacks, five interceptions, six forced fumbles, six recovered fumbles, and scored four defensive touchdowns.
Anthony Hitchens helped lead his team to a 10-1 record and a state championship during his junior year.
Anthony Hitchens’ High School Honors Include:
- First-team All-State
- Lorain County Golden Helmet Award
- Lorain Morning Journal’s Player of the Year
Coming out of high school Anthony Hitchens was viewed as a two-star recruit by Rivals.com. He had offers from Kansas University, Indiana University, University of Akron, and Eastern Michigan, before deciding to continue his playing career at the University of Iowa.
Anthony Hitchens originally started his collegiate career at the University of Iowa as a running back before being moved to linebacker full-time.
Hitchens’ freshman season in 2010 was relatively unproductive. He mainly played on special teams, but saw action in 10 games. He finished his freshman year with one solo tackle and eight assists.
In 2011, he was the second string weak side linebacker and played in eight games, missing five others due to injury. Anthony Hitchens recorded 14 solo tackles, 11 assists, and recovered one fumble.
In 2012, Anthony Hitchens took over full-time duties, playing in all but one game that season. He had an extremely productive season: he led the Big Ten in tackles (124) and ranked fifth in the nation with 11.2 tackles per game. Hitchens also collected 5.5 tackles for a loss and had one quarterback sack.
In his senior season, Anthony Hitchens started every game at weak side linebacker and once again led the team with 112 tackles. He also had two quarterback sacks, two forced fumbles, two pass breakups, one recovered fumble, one interception, and four QB pressures.
Anthony Hitchens’ 2013 Honors Include:
- Roy J. Carver Most Valuable Player
- Hayden Fry ‘Extra Heartbeat’ Award
- Second-team All-Big Ten by league coaches
- Honorable mention All-Big Ten by league media
- Second team All-Big Ten by Athlon Sports and Phil Steele
- Third team All-Big Ten by College Sports Madness
2014 NFL Draft
The Dallas Cowboys drafted Anthony Hitchens in the fourth round (119th overall) of the 2014 NFL draft. The selection was viewed by the media as being a reach for the Cowboys, but they saw a linebacker that would provide valuable depth behind Sean Lee.
Anthony Hitchens didn’t really light up the world at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine. He ran a 4.74 second 40-yard dash and only managed 23 reps on bench press. His vertical jump was 31.5 inches and his broad jump was 116 inches.
Not eye-popping numbers for a linebacker, but the Dallas Cowboys saw something in him that they really liked, thus using a fourth round draft pick to acquire his services.
The Dallas Cowboys drafted Anthony Hitchens to be a valuable backup linebacker, but I doubt they thought that he would have to receive so much playing time his first two seasons in the NFL.
After the loss of Sean Lee to injury in 2014, the Cowboys traded for Rolando McClain to start at MLB. This allowed Hitchens to be brought along somewhat slowly as a rookie, but that doesn’t mean the Cowboys coaching staff didn’t value him as a member of the linebacker group. In fact, they had Hitchens learn all three linebacker positions and it came in handy down the stretch.
Hitchens’ role on the team became more important when fellow linebacker Justin Durant was lost for the year in Week 8. Hitchens would go on to start a total of 11 games as a rookie and finished the season with 75 tackles, four passes defensed, and one interception.
After suffering a high ankle sprain in the last game of the regular season, Anthony Hitchens still managed to play in the wildcard playoff game against the Detroit Lions, where he was involved in a controversial non-interference call against tight end Brandon Pettigrew.
In 2015, Hitchens’ second year in the NFL, his opportunities were reduced due to Sean Lee’s return at weak side linebacker and Rolando McClain at middle linebacker. However, Hitchens would step in and start the first four games at MLB while McClain served a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policies.
Anthony Hitchens started nine games and recorded 67 tackles, one pass defended, and one forced fumble.
As things stand right now, it looks as if Anthony Hitchens will have a much larger role on defense in 2016 while Rolando McClain is serving a 10 game suspension for once again violating the league’s substance abuse policies.
Anthony Hitchens is entering the third year of his rookie contract with the Dallas Cowboys. The total value of Hitchens’ contract is $2,654,864, with $434,864 of that fully guaranteed, making him the 41st highest paid linebacker of 89 4-3 OLBs in the league. He will make an average of $663,713 per season over the four years of his contract.
In 2016, Anthony Hitchens will have a base salary of $600,000 and his cap hit will be $708,716. In the final year of his contract in 2017 his base salary will be $690,000 and his hit against the cap will be $798,716. The Dallas Cowboys will then have to decide if they want to offer him a second contract or not.
Cowboys Defense is Ready to Win Now, Time for Offense to Prove the Same
The Dallas Cowboys lead the NFC East at 1-1, and have a favorable schedule ahead of them. With such an inexperienced roster, early season growing pains were expected, and likely should be still as the team comes off their first win to play in Seattle on Sunday.
Through a season opening clunker in Carolina and hard-earned divisional win against the Giants, the Cowboys have exceeded already high expectations on defense.
With the currently 0-2 Seahawks, Lions, and Texans awaiting Dallas, the time is now for Scott Linehan's offense to hit their stride. It will take more than a five week assessment to determine if the Cowboys are truly playoff contenders for 2018, but it could take even less than that for Cowboys Nation to realize this team is fighting an uphill battle at QB and WR.
Following Dak Prescott's 64-yard touchdown pass to Tavon Austin against the Giants, the Cowboys punted on four of their remaining seven drives. The Cowboys did a better job mixing up their early down play calling to remain ahead of the chains for most of the night, but even still their execution was lacking. Finishing three of ten on third downs, the Cowboys didn't sustain the type of originality on offense that earned them an early cushion.
Thankfully, the Cowboys turning back the clock to 2016 on a clinching touchdown drive of 14 plays would be all the defense needed. Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott would both convert a pair of first downs on the ground. The Cowboys took a 20-3 lead, and more importantly the game clock down to 5:45 with an eight minute and 23 second march.
As such, the Cowboys offense is an enigma. With the return of Brice Butler, the team is currently carrying seven wide receivers and four tight ends.
On defense, the Cowboys are expecting reinforcements in Xavier Woods, Randy Gregory, and David Irving to further bolster this aggressive, blitzing unit in the coming weeks. For the offense, Dallas must make the most out of the unknown depth they have, without any drastic change in style around the corner.
The Cowboys record under Prescott proves they're at their best when Dak is efficient. The ceiling for a new-look Cowboys offense built for Dak is not as high for this reason. Through just two weeks, it's clear that the Cowboys offense will be as good as the sum of its parts - instead of relying on any individual talents.
Cowboys' record when Dak Prescott ... Doesn't throw an interception: 20-4 Records at least a 100.0 passer rating: 15-1 Commits no turnovers: 18-1
After a strong preseason from rookie Wide Receiver Michael Gallup, the third-round pick has played less than half his team's offensive snaps through two games. Cole Beasley has seemed to regain his connection with Prescott, snagging a team high nine catches so far. Terrance Williams has been a non-factor, and the same is surprisingly said about FA acquisition Allen Hurns.
Regardless of what the Cowboys do over the coming weeks, a few narratives and lingering questions about the team feel evident. With the defense set to tee off against the Seahawks sub par OL this week, Rod Marinelli's unit will still likely not receive the credit it deserves heading into week four.
With the task at hand being maintaining their standing atop the division, the Cowboys must also be out to prove they can sustain success without a consistent passing game.
All of this to effectively say, the Cowboys are going to Seattle expecting to control the game on defense. To finish off Russell Wilson in his home opener (already at 0-2), it will take a sharper performance for a full four quarters on offense too.
A win at the Seahawks might not mean as much as it has in past seasons, but in improving the Cowboys record to 2-1 on the way back to AT&T Stadium, it could be all the confidence they need to understand the NFC East is theirs for the taking while continuing to truly find their identity.
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Snap Judgments: Cowboys’ Linebacker Depth Stands Out in Win
The Dallas Cowboys evened their record at 1-1 with their 20-13 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday night. The Cowboys linebackers had a huge impact on the outcome of the game and it wasn't just the guys at the top of the depth chart either. America's Team got contributions from guys at the bottom of the depth chart.
What a difference a year makes.
The Dallas Cowboys worked hard this offseason to fix the linebacker depth that failed them in the 2017 season. When Sean Lee or Anthony Hitchens -- or both -- were sidelined with injuries, Jaylon Smith, Damien Wilson, and the rest of the linebacker group struggled to keep up with opposing offenses. Specifically, in games against the Los Angeles Rams and Green Bay Packers the major depth inadequacy was revealed.
One year later, the Dallas Cowboys have a linebacker corp that allows them to go five deep with Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, Joe Thomas, and Damien Wilson all making considerable contributions for the Dallas Cowboys in Sunday nights victory.
Here are the final snap counts for the five linebackers that played a defensive snap against the Giants.
- Jaylon Smith - 57 (84%)
- Sean Lee - 41 (60)
- Leighton Vander Esch - 28 (48%)
- Damien Wilson - 17 (25%)
- Joe Thomas - 14 (21%)
Jaylon Smith led the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night with 10 tackles (seven solo) and played really well roaming sideline to sideline and making plays. He was tasked with the difficult assignment of containing New York Giants Running Back Saquon Barkley and allowed four catches for 41 yards in his coverage area. Smith was credited with three stops or plays that result in a "loss" for the offense (per Pro Football Focus). Smith led the team in snaps for the second straight week.
Sean Lee had a better game on Sunday night than he did in week one. PFF credited him with four stops, four tackles and an assist. Lee allowed two catches for 24 yards on two targets to Wayne Gallman and Evan Engram. Lee pulled his hamstring at the end of the game and was held out the rest of the way for precautionary reasons. He'll be an interesting name to watch on this week's injury report. Age catches up with everyone, but hopefully Sean Lee can stave it off for at least another season.
Rookie Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch saw a big bump in his snap count from week one (17) to week two (28). The rookie played well too. As many players seemed to struggle with tackling Saquon Barkley, Vander Esch was able to bring down the number two overall pick on several occasions. Vander Esch had seven solo tackles in his second career game.
Damien Wilson was the surprise player of the night. He had three tackles on the night, including one on special teams, a sack, and a forced fumble. Though his time on the field might have been short, his impact was certainly felt. His forced fumble led to a field goal that gave the Dallas Cowboys a 13-0 nothing lead. Wilson was also credited with two stops on the night.
Joe Thomas has been a good player for the team off the bench as well. Though he only had one tackle, it was good enough to be credited with a stop. He's a player that can play both the WILL and MIKE linebacker spots. As the fourth or fifth linebacker on the depth chart, Thomas is a great role player.
Other Snap Count Notes
- Taco Charlton may not have started, but he played 84% of the team's defensive snaps. That number is up from 73% in week one. Charlton had a sack, a hit, and a hurry as well as three stops on the night.
- Cole Beasley and Allen Hurns led the wide receiver group in snap percentage from week one to week two. The big difference at wide receiver was seeing Michael Gallup take the third most snaps on offense instead of Deonte Thompson. Thompson still had the bigger impact with four catches for 33 yards on five targets including two for first downs.
- Geoff Swaim was the far and away leader at tight end in snaps with a 94% snap count. Only the offensive line and Dak Prescott had more snaps on the night than Swaim. He's the TE1 for the team, though he didn't have an impact in the passing game.
- Rico Gathers only played five snaps, but there was concerted effort to get him the ball as he had two targets in his five snaps. He may not have come away with a catch, but it's a start.
- Jourdan Lewis continues to be the odd man out on defense. He only played one snap.
- Dorance Armstrong saw a snap jump from week one to week two going from 28% of the defensive snaps to 40% of the snaps. He had two hurries and an assisted tackle.
Why Cowboys Need Tavon Austin More Involved Offensively
Two games into the 2018 season and I'm still not quite sure what to make of the Dallas Cowboys offense. To me, there is a void of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. With the exception of Ezekiel Elliott and maybe Cole Beasley, there is a lack of consistency that is really hurting this offensive unit. Changes need to be made or someone needs to step up in a hurry.
Enter Wide Receiver/Running Back Tavon Austin.
Just looking at Tavon Austin you would probably put him in the category with Cole Beasley, a small/diminutive WR who should strictly be playing out of the slot. That's typically where the smaller WRs get placed in the NFL because teams would like you to believe that due to their diminutive stature, they can't succeed on the outside.
Well, guess what? The passing game is changing around the league and we're starting to see more of these smaller/quicker WRs earn more prominent roles. The reasoning is these types of receivers are generally known to be better route runners, who are more capable of creating separation on their own.
The Dallas Cowboys must be buying into this philosophy because during the offseason they pretty much revamped the entire wide receiver position with that thought at least in the back of their minds. They didn't bring in a lot of "undersized" WRs, but they did focus on adding pass catchers who can run better routes and create separation on their own.
Wide Receiver Tavon Austin is one of those pass catchers Dallas brought in to improve their passing game. Austin really hasn't been utilized as much as I thought he would in the first two games, but he is starting to look like a dynamic weapon the Cowboys can't ignore much longer.
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Last Sunday night against the New York Giants, the Dallas Cowboys finally decided to utilize Tavon Austin's speed in the passing game. The result, a 64 yard touchdown pass from Quarterback Dak Prescott.
Austin's speed to stretch the field both vertically and horizontally is something the Dallas Cowboys need to incorporate more of into their offensive game plan. Forcing opposing defenses to have to cover more of the field should create more opportunities for big plays in both the running and passing game.
Stretching the field vertically with Austin's speed will open up things up underneath in the passing game. It takes at least one, possibly two defenders out of the play, leaving nine to defend against 10 Cowboys offensive players. That benefits Ezekiel Elliott in the running game and the other WRs running those underneath routes.
Stretching the field horizontally mostly helps the running game, which is great news when you have a dynamic running back like Zeke. Utilizing Austin's speed on jet sweeps or reverses forces the edge defenders from crashing down on inside runs. It also forces the linebackers to hesitate more because they have to respect the threat of both an inside or outside run.
Against the Giants, Tavon Austin turned three touches into 94 total yards, two receptions for 79 receiving yards and one rushing attempt for 15 yards. Imagine if the Cowboys were to give him about 10 touches a game. It seems like such a simple thing, but I think it could have a huge impact (for the better) for the entire offense.
Do you think the Dallas Cowboys need to get Tavon Austin more involved?
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