The Dallas Cowboys have a rich history of unearthing gems that weren’t selected in the annual NFL Draft. Tony Romo, Miles Austin, and Cole Beasley all went undrafted and made significant impacts for the Cowboys during their tenures.
With a shortened offseason and really solid depth up and down the roster, it was looking unlikely that any of the undrafted free agents from the 2020 class of undrafted signees would stick to the 53-man roster. Fewer practices and no preseason games meant fewer opportunities for the down-roster guys to make an impression.
Former Utah Linebacker Francis Bernard didn’t get the memo. Early in camp, Bernard has caught the attention of observers in the building and one Leighton Vander Esch.
Dallas Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch was asked on @1053thefan for a breakout candidate on the team’s roster.He chose linebacker Francis Bernard. pic.twitter.com/2JQe4O6SfZ
The Dallas Cowboys have been preaching the importance of getting turnovers for years, and this new defensive staff has made it an emphasis as well. The problem has been finding and playing players that appear to have an instinct to take the football away. Early in training camp, it seems they’ve found one.
Though undrafted, Bernard, was a playmaker in college. In two seasons as a starter, first at BYU in 2016 and then at Utah in 2019, Bernard had five interceptions, 13 tackles for loss, four passes defended, two sacks, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and an interception return for a touchdown. Bernard is still learning the position at linebacker after making the switch early in his career, but he was a first-team All-Conference selection in 2019.
“A coverage heavy linebacker that’s still learning the position after making the switch from running back as a sophomore. Bernard was a featured part of one of the best defenses in college football along with Cowboys’ fifth-rounder Bradlee Anae and other 2020 draft picks like Terrell Burgess and Leki Fotu. His length and lack of athleticism will each be obstacles to overcome as a rookie, but some ‘draft experts’ had Bernard as a Top-200 player in the class which makes his signing a steal. There is no doubt that he’s an NFL ready linebacker that can not only make a roster, but an impact as well despite his multiple limitations.”
Kyle Youmans, DallasCowboys.com
Though Francis Bernard finds himself buried on the Dallas Cowboys depth chart at linebacker, there’s no reason he can’t force his way on there with his play in camp. He’s already made a strong first impression with Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, and if he continues to make plays as he has in the early going, it will be hard for the Cowboys to not find a spot for him on the 53-man roster.