The Dallas Cowboys were bitten hard by the injury bug on defense in 2012 and it appears that trend will continue in 2013 as linebacker Alex Albright was waived on Monday after scheduling season-ending back surgery. If Albright clears waivers, the Cowboys will place him on injured reserve and basically put him on the shelf for a year. Regardless, the competition for playing time among the Cowboys’ backup linebackers just got a lot more intense.
When Dallas hired new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin in January and switched to the 4-3, Tampa 2 defense, Albright was favored by many to win the starting outside linebacker job opposite Bruce Carter with Sean Lee in the middle. Then the Cowboys signed Justin Durant in March and the balance then tilted toward the veteran. Now with Albright done for 2013, fellow youngsters Taylor Reed, Caleb McSurdy, Brandon Magee and DeVonte Holloman are vying for the additional playing time. Reed and Magee are undrafted rookies looking to just make the roster while McSurdy is looking to prove himself after missing his rookie season with a torn Achilles tendon.
Holloman is a sixth-round draft pick who has turned heads through three preseason games with two interceptions, including one he took back 75 yards for a touchdown. Every reporter, analyst and scout from Arlington to El Paso are calling this kid a playmaker and his ability to get to the ball quickly and force turnovers will earn him playing time soon enough. He’s primarily a weak-side linebacker and that starting job is locked down by Carter but if need be, the Cowboys won’t hesitate to move Holloman to the other side of Lee to get him on the field.
Of course, it’s important not to forget about Ernie Sims, who was signed when Lee went down in 2012 and stepped up in a big way for the Cowboys’ ailing defense. Sims is modestly just trying to make the team this year, but told ESPN he believes he can beat Durant out of a starting job. Of course, he’ll likely have to beat out Holloman too, at least eventually, but that competition is a good thing for Dallas.
At least right now, it appears that Albright’s injury won’t negatively affect the Cowboys the way it might have when the team didn’t have so many promising players vying for time on the field. Put simply, this competition is going to make Dallas’ next two preseason games and roster cuts very interesting.