The Dallas Cowboys were dealt a heavy blow this week when linebacker Sean Lee tore his ACL and will miss the entire 2014 season. So how can the Cowboys replace not only their best LB, but also their best overall defensive player? To answer that question one must examine the other linebackers on the roster. With that in mind it is time to continue this series of breaking down the Cowboys’ roster with today’s focus on the linebacker position.
Lee’s absence means the other starting LBs must step up, and that starts with Bruce Carter. Carter has the talent, but he has not been able to find the consistency it takes to be a top NFL LB. Like Lee, he has also battled injuries in his career. In 2014, Carter must stay healthy and consistently show the talent he has flashed in the past.
A linebacker who played well in Lee’s absence last season was Kyle Wilber. Wilber recorded 44 tackles and two sacks last season. He will be counted on again in 2014, and the Cowboys hope he can improve on last season’s numbers.
Now as for who will play the middle linebacker position in place of the injured Lee, there are probably three options currently on the roster. One of those options is veteran LB Justin Durant. The problem is Durant was not that productive in 2013, only recording 24 tackles and zero sacks.
Dallas did use a draft pick on linebacker Anthony Hitchens, but making a rookie the QB of your defense could be risky. Then again, based on how bad the defense was last year starting a rookie at MLB couldn’t make it any worse, could it?
The last player currently on the roster who could be a possibility is 2013 draft pick Devonte Holloman. Holloman was a safety in college, but Dallas began converting him to LB last season. Holloman struggled at times, but he also showed flashes of great play. He had 24 tackles and two sacks. I believe he is the most likely candidate on the roster to attempt to fill the huge void left by Lee.
There are players not currently on the roster that Dallas could pursue. Jonathan Vilma has declared himself healthy, and Dallas could bring him in to see what he has left in the tank. An even longer long shot could be Brian Urlacher, who retired before last season. It’s doubtful that Urlacher would want to come out of retirement, but he does have a long standing relationship with defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli; if Dallas called, he might be willing to at least listen.
Dallas will need their young linebackers to take that next step in 2014. With the firepower of the Cowboys’ offense, the linebackers and the rest of the defense doesn’t have to be great, but they can’t be as horrendous as they were in 2013 either.