#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 Receive 4th-Round Compensatory Pick in 2019 NFL Draft
The Dallas Cowboys will receive an extra fourth-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft after the league awarded compensatory picks today.
The pick will be 136th overall, which is one spot below were Dallas drafted Dak Prescott in 2016.
And in other news... NFL awarded compensatory draft picks today - Patriots and Rams each received two third-round picks. The full list, per sources:
We have Anthony Hitchens to thank for this extra pick. The former Cowboys linebacker signed a five-year, $45 million deal with the Chiefs last offseason which far surpassed any of the deal that Dallas made with their own free agent acquisitions.
Only free agents whose contracts expired, not those released in the offseason by their previous team, count towards the compensatory pick formula. Therefore, Allen Hurns' deal was not a mitigating factor.
As mentioned already, the fourth round of the NFL Draft recently gave Dallas its starting quarterback. Other notable fourth-round picks in the modern era have been Hitchens, Doug Free, Marion Barber, and Chris Canty.
Last year, Dallas drafted DE Dorance Armstrong and TE Dalton Schultz with fourth-round picks.
Already short their first and sixth-round picks this year from previous trades, the Cowboys are certainly happy to have this extra selection for April's draft.
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Linebacker
One of the brightest spots on the Dallas Cowboys' projected 2019 roster is linebacker. The young pair of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch have already emerged as one of the league's best duos. But that doesn't mean that the Cowboys have no work to do at the position this offseason.
Having Jaylon and Leighton does take a lot of pressure off. Most teams utilize their nickel scheme more than any other these days, which generally utilizes just two linebackers, in the increasingly pass-focused NFL. And thankfully, both Smith and Vander Esch have shown great skills in pass defense.
But there's still a semi-starting role to get figured out in the base 4-3 scheme. Damien Wilson has held the strong-side or "SAM" position for the last few years and has an expiring contract.
What's more, Dallas has a big decision to make regarding the contract of Sean Lee, which is ripe for terminating with $7 million in salary cap savings possible.
It's highly unlikely that the Cowboys would keep both Lee and Wilson. If they decide to re-sign Damien, Lee will be cut to help fund that move and others. If Sean is kept on, Wilson will almost surely be looking for a starting role somewhere else in free agency.
Even if the Cowboys do make Lee a cap casualty between now and March 13th, they may still allow Wilson to test free agency and then try to re-sign him later at a discount. He's unlikely to attract the same attention that Anthony Hitchens got last year.
Another factor in all of this is Joe Thomas, a free agent addition last year who provided good depth and could potentially start in 2019. He is scheduled to count $2.2 million against the cap, which is fine for a primary reserve but a bargain for an occasional starter.
A core of Smith, Thomas, and Vander Esch gives the Cowboys a good foundation to build from. Smith can play the SAM in the base scheme and Thomas can be the primary backup to Jaylon and Leighton in the nickel.
However, going that route would deplete the depth chart. Chris Covington, a sixth-round pick last year, would be the only noteworthy player under contract. Dallas would need to find at least two more guys to fill out the group for 2019.
They could look at re-signing backup Justin March-Lillard, who would at least bring some familiarity and veteran experience. But that might still leave them looking for more of a primary reserve, which would be especially vital if Thomas is promoted to a starting role.
The projected LB free agent pool for 2019 should make it a buyer's market. Dallas may be able to re-sign Damien Wilson or even add an upgrade, like perhaps the Vikings' Anthony Barr, at a relative bargain. There should be ample options for depth as well.
Barring an extremely favorable value opportunity, don't expect the Cowboys to spend a significant draft pick at linebacker. The fourth-round is the earliest I could see one going based on other needs, and even then it would need to be someone they really like.
Good drafting is why Dallas has flexibility and leverage this offseason. The picks they invested in Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch appear to have made LB a strength of the team for the next several years.
There is still business to attend to, but the Cowboys won't have to be too concerned with linebacker in 2019 thanks to their young stars.
2018 In Review: Byron Jones Emerges As CB1
Heading into the 2018 season Byron Jones was being asked to prove himself. The former first round pick had fallen out of the coaches' good graces during his third season, though many of his struggles could be attributed to those very coaches which were then questioning his ability.
Being asked to play out of position, or at least in a spot which did not maximize his natural ability, Jones struggled in 2017. Too often he was playing in the box as a safety where his lack of physicality was exposed by the opponent's run game. This was mostly due to the coaching staff falling in love with his tight-end-erasing ability in man coverage, but backfired when overused as a safety.
Once hired the following offseason, Kris Richard and company decided to move Byron Jones to cornerback full time, allowing him to utilize his excellent coverage skills and athletic ability to the fullest, rather than putting him at a disadvantage in the box.
The results? Well, Jones had one of the best seasons of any cornerback in football, earning All Pro and Pro Bowl honors for the first time in his young career.
Byron Jones had a dominant season for Dallas
Pro Football Focus graded Jones as the sixth best cornerback in all of football last season, allowing just 0.79 yards per coverage snap. Despite not having an interception on the season, Jones still earned national recognition as one of the best cornerbacks in the entire league.
Down the stretch of the season, Chidobe Awuzie started to play up to the level which fans had hoped for during the preseason. He had been sticky in coverage most of the year, but now he was making plays on the ball at a much better rate, forcing incompletions. This led to an increase in targets to Jones' side, and though the increase resulted in more catches given up by the number one cornerback, I don't think Jones' play faltered as much as some will have you believe.
The fact is, when you get targeted more you are bound to give up more catches and yards. The key is to force them into contested catches, and make things as difficult for the receiver as possible when targeted.
Byron Jones continued to do this all season long, and fans should be excited for the next step of his growth in 2019.
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