There have been plenty of storylines for fans of the Dallas Cowboys to follow this offseason. They can point to the firing of Rob Ryan and the hiring of Monte Kiffin or they can continue to discuss the state of the Cowboys’ offense, which includes who the play caller will be and what the offensive line will look like?
However, one of the moves the Cowboys made this offseason continues to go unnoticed and that’s the signing of linebacker Justin Durant. When Dallas hired Monte Kiffin and switched to the Tampa 2 defense, the Cowboys were short on linebackers who had experience in the 4-3 alignment. With DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer changing positions to defensive end, Dallas needed a strong-side linebacker to add to their starting group that included starters Sean Lee and Bruce Carter.
Dallas wound up with one of their more shrewd signings when they added Durant into the fold. Durant not only has experience in the 4-3, he’s also been very productive. Durant had a career high 82 tackles last season and was one of the better run stopping 4-3 linebackers in the league for the Detroit Lions in 2012. The six-year veteran will bring experience to a group that doesn’t have any linebackers who have played in the 4-3 at the NFL level; which is a huge help since Durant has played his entire career in the 4-3.
The Cowboys did have other options but Ernie Sims is more of a solid backup and even though I really like Alex Albright’s game, Dallas pictures him as more of a backup as well. The other candidate, Kyle Wilber, has been moved to defensive end, so the Cowboys really needed some experience for the strong side linebacker position.
Durant does have his limitations, he’s primarily a two down player, but the Cowboys will have plenty of other options to utilize on third down and will be fine without Durant on the field in those situations. This situation is nothing new for teams who run the 4-3 defense and the Cowboys will be no different.
With all the changes the Cowboys are making on defense, the signing of a linebacker with experience in the 4-3 alignment was a smart move. Justin Durant has been a forgotten man in Dallas so far, but that will likely change when the season begins.