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Where Does Cowboys DE Jalen Jelks Stand Heading Into 2nd Season?

The Dallas have done a good job lately of finding contributors in the late rounds of the . Will Defensive End Jalen Jelks, the 7th-Round pick in 2019, be able to fight his way onto the team in 2020?

Jalen joined the Cowboys as an athletic pass rusher who had potential to play both defensive end and . He was kept at DE through the end of the , playing in three games and registering one sack.

Unfortunately, Jelks’ season was cut short when he was placed on just before final cuts. What that was has never been disclosed, and it’s likely the Cowboys used something very minor to stash Jalen away for a year. Whatever happened, don’t expect it to be an issue going forward.

Back to active duty in 2020, Jelks is once again going to have a hard time making the roster. The numbers at DE and LB don’t look good for him, meaning he will have to be a huge surprise this summer if he wants to stick around.

Jelks has a great frame and athleticism for a pass rusher but was lacking in strength and technique when he entered the league. Was he able to get enough development from IR last year to be a more competitive candidate now?

Even if Jalen is better, he’s up against a stacked group at defensive end with , , , , Joe Jackson, and all in the current mix. We also expect to be reinstated and command a roster spot as well.

If Jelks is going to make the team in 2020 it would likely have to happen as a SAM linebacker. But even there the prospect isn’t that great.

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DE Jalen Jelks (AP Photo/John Hefti)

We know , , , and will all be on the roster. Backups and Justin March are also highly likely; Gifford is an exciting young prospect and March has good experience and ability.

For Jelks to make a transition to LB and outshine any of these six players is highly unlikely. We don’t even know that that move is on the table.

Something that could work in Jalen’s favor, though, is the change in from to as . While the Cowboys are sticking with the 4-3 scheme for now, Nolan and have both indicated that “3-4 principles” will be added and we could see more variety in the formations and looks used.

If Jalen Jelks gets opportunities to work as a pass-rusher from an OLB position, it could be his best chance to impress and earn a roster spot.

Nothing says Jelks is entitled to make the team as a drafted player. If you go back through the drafts from 2015-2019, only six of 18 players drafted in Rounds 6-7 are still with the team today. Of those six, only Jelks and WR were 7th-Round picks.

It’s far more likely that Jalen will soon be joining , , and other recent 7th Rounders who never played a regular-season game with the Cowboys. Making the in 2020 would be a good goal.

But in a league where pass rushing has become all the more vital in the modern era, Jalen Jelks has made it this far on that coveted attribute. If the raw potential that got him drafted has had a chance to develop, he may become a more noteworthy name in the 2020 roster battle.

What do you think?

Jess Haynie

Written by Jess Haynie

Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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One Comment

  1. I think you’ve pretty much nailed it Jess … didn’t leave too much room for consenting remarks (nice job!). I can only add that I really like see the #74 jersey in play … though even if he makes the team, it won’t be re-issued.

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