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Will LB Luke Gifford Make More of an Impact in Year 2?

LB Luke Gifford could provide invaluable depth for the Dallas Cowboys.

A year ago, Linebacker Luke Gifford made it through the Dallas Cowboys final cuts as a rookie free agent despite missing a large part of training camp with an ankle injury he sustained in the preseason opener – the same game he recorded his first NFL interception against the San Francisco 49ers. He ended up appearing in six regular-season games, but landed on injured reserve in December with a broken arm. His impact in Year 1 was minimal, but there’s a good chance that could change heading into Year 2.

Prior to free agency, it was expected Luke Gifford was the favorite to become the primary backup for both Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. Those expectations died quickly though once the Dallas Cowboys brought back Sean Lee, Joe Thomas, and Justin March-Lillard. The hopes of being more involved and receiving more playing time look dead now that he is buried on the depth chart once again, however, it doesn’t mean the impact he can make in 2020 is.

Luke Gifford
Dallas Cowboys LB Luke Gifford

At best, Luke Gifford is probably fifth on the Cowboys linebacker depth chart right now. His chances of receiving much playing time on defense seems like a long shot, but things can change quickly in the NFL. With Sean Lee’s known injury history and Leighton Vander Esch’s unknown long-term health due to his neck injury, Gifford finds himself just a play or two away from receiving significant playing time.

Now, it’s a bit of a stretch to go from fifth on the depth chart to becoming a regular key contributor on defense, however, it’s not so far out there that it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility. We all know Sean Lee has a problem staying healthy and no one really knows how Leighton Vander Esch will rebound after having offseason neck surgery. Hopefully they’re good to go, but with Gifford and some of the other promising LB depth, the Cowboys at least won’t be caught with their pants down.

This of course would be a doomsday scenario for the Dallas Cowboys. Odds are Luke Gifford’s defensive impact in 2020 will once again be minimal. That doesn’t mean he can’t be more impactful than he was as a rookie though. He should become one of the better special teams players under John “Bones” Fassel. That in itself should make Gifford an underrated, although valuable piece of the puzzle for the Cowboys success this season.

Do you think LB Luke Gifford will be more impactful in Year 2?

What do you think?

Brian Martin

Written by Brian Martin

Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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  1. I really like his chances if he can have another preseason like last year. (barring Injury again) you hit the nail on the head as a reliable depth with Lee and LVE injury scares. So happy they resigned Joe Thomas though. Wish it was longer I think it was a 1yr deal. He’s a perfect 3rd man after LVE and Smith. He could start on a lot of teams I believe. He’s such a quiet contributer. LB core would be lost without him this year I think. Hes so versatile to play all three LB spots. God forbid Smith and LVE went down I think Gifford and Thomas could hold the fort down to a certain extent.

  2. I think the question is will Gifford get the starting nod over Sean Lee. If Gifford improves on his surprisingly good play last pre-season, I think he could easily be handed a starting job. Sean Lee is getting up in age but still offers great depth to any linebacking corps. That may be Lee’s best role this year. He could limit his playing time, but still be available in case of an injury to Smith or Vander Esch. Joe Thomas is also a great reserve player and provides a level of comfort to the coaching staff. Not to mention Justin March, who I think will battle the two UDFA signees Francis Bernard and Azur Kamara for the final roster spot. Of those three, one will make the roster and one will be assigned to the Practice Squad. At this point, I do give March a leg up on the competition.

    • Dave, I really like Gifford but I don’t think there’s any way he earns a starting job over a healthy Sean Lee. I still think Lee is the Cowboys best LB currently on the roster. He simply can’t be trusted in a full-time role though due to his inability to stay healthy.

      • His sample size was so small last year, and though he made a couple of plays, I think the only thing he really has going for him right now is that Dallas has to keep at least one of these young LB’s (and maybe two). Among those guys, he’s the clear favorite but it’s not a given. Thomas, March and Lee are all seasoned and on 1-year contracts. As soon as the season ends, two of these young guys are on the cusp of being starters … though I too am among those who think Thomas should have been given at least a 3-year deal. If I recall correctly, he was drafted by McCarthy in GB? Not sure why he became a free-agent from there.

        Long-term outlook at LB could change if we discover that Nolan starts to veer towards a more permanent 3-4 alignment … a little something to watch.

  3. Yea well done Travis big fan of the versatile Thomas. He always seems to be around the ball alot and is one of the better back up LBs in the league…. not sure why they only signed him for 1 yr should have locked him up for several. Not sure if Gifford is ready for a starting job but the cowboys are apparently very high on him, so much that they kept in on the roster despite him missing most of rookie season due to injuries. Could definately see him start next yr and get into the rotation this yr. but probably needs a little seasoning as this is basically his rookie season.

  4. Hit the key.
    Look again at that picture of Luke Gifford in the blue jersey.
    Now image that jersey number is 12.
    That’s Brady in Cowboys uniform!

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