Entering his second season with the Dallas Cowboys, Kyle Wilber is still waiting to make his mark on the NFL. As a rookie in 2012, Wilber’s season wasn’t nearly what he or the team expected it to be as hand injuries plagued him early on and he ended up recording only four tackles in 10 games. Now healthy with a full offseason to learn the Cowboys’ new 4-3 scheme, Wilber is primed to break out in 2013.
Former Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan drafted Wilber to be a pass-defending/pass-rushing outside linebacker in his complex 3-4 scheme and after Wilber’s career at Wake Forest, he fit Ryan’s system perfectly. However, we’ll never know what might have been as Wilber never got the chance to really show what he could do and now Ryan is gone, but the former Demon Deacon is still in good shape for a great sophomore campaign.
At Wake Forest, Wilber played outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, but he was primarily a pass-rusher, although he did show superb pass-coverage abilities on occasion. Now that he’s bulked up to be a defensive end in Monte Kiffin’s 4-3 system, Wilber believes he’ll be even better than once thought.
“My hand was on the ground at Wake,” Wilber told ESPN. “I don’t feel like there’s much difference in comparing the 3-4 to the 4-3 because [as] outside linebackers, we were basically defensive ends but I was standing up in a two-point. It’s less dropping for us now.”
Considering the Cowboys’ incredible woes at defensive end while running the 3-4, Wilber’s experience as a pure pass-rusher gives Dallas hope that will change in 2013. Sean Lee, Bruce Carter and Alex Albright give the team a superb linebacking corps to go along with a young secondary full of potential, so all that’s missing is solid pass-rushing from the defensive end spot.
Now that All-Pro pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware and Pro Bowler Anthony Spencer are also moving to defensive end, the problems that plagued the Cowboys under Ryan should disappear, especially with young, up-and-coming players like Wilber to provide depth.
Wilber has added almost 15 pounds of bulk this offseason to ensure he’s ready for his new role, so most of the work is done, especially considering he doesn’t have to learn how to rush the passer from the end position. In addition, he should benefit from coming out of a three-point stance, which naturally gives pass-rushers a burst at the snap and more momentum to get past opposing offensive tackles.
Wilber’s goal now should be to replace Spencer atop the depth chart and earn a long-term starting spot in Kiffin’s scheme that gives the Cowboys some peace of mind at the defensive end position. That’s easier said than done after Spencer had his best season as a pro in 2012, but it remains to be seen how the former first-round pick fares as a defensive end in the 4-3. Wilber has the early advantage and regardless, the Cowboys now have great depth at a position that’s been a problem in recent years. In other words, it’s show time for Wilber.