Nobody knows exactly what will happen between now and the start of the NFL season. Some players will step up, some fill fall, and unfortunately there will likely be more injuries for the Dallas Cowboys going forward. The loss of Sean Lee is huge for the defense. Dallas needs someone to step in at middle linebacker and Anthony Hitchens was brought in for this exact reason.
Hitchens was selected in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. The Cowboys believe he can be an impactful player in the linebacking core at some point.
Asking him to be the guy to replace Lee is a mighty large demand. The cram-session will have to be fast forwarded due to the loss of Lee.
Many teams had Hitchens as a late-round pick but the Cowboys liked what they saw and felt he met all the necessary evaluations for a player at that time in the draft.
Lee was back working with the young guys trying to coach them along a day after tearing his ACL. There is only so much he can say or show these guys. Unfortunately, nobody will know if they are capable until they take meaningful steps.
Nobody is going to replace Lee’s ability to create turnovers and make all the defensive adjustments.
Hitchens knows he has to study and get as many reps as possible.
When asked about taking over for Lee, Hitchens said, “I gotta get in the playbook. I gotta get the alignments down. They aren’t going to hold my hand and walk me through this stuff, so I got to take a lot of this own my own and learn the playbook.”
Hitchens relies on his speed to get to the ball. He can cover a lot of space in a short time. He isn’t afraid of contact and will get in there and do the dirty work. That’s exactly what coaches want.
I really like his professional attitude. Everybody knows this is a tough spot to be in. It’s not ideal but Hitchens knows he has to do the work and learn. Those involved in the organization have to be encouraged with his attitude—hopefully his play follows suit.
All the scheme and adjustments talk will come with time and repetition.
That’s why the best route the Cowboys can take is to develop Hitchens. They don’t need to waste their time by bringing in a free agent.
Sure, guys like Jonathan Vilma and Michael Boley have plenty of professional experience, but they too will have to learn and adjust to the Rod Marinelli system. It can also be difficult to alter terminology and some of the bad habits they have already created.
I think starting fresh with Hitchens will allow for the best result. He will struggle at times but every young player does. He won’t be Sean Lee right away and he may never reach that point, but the Cowboys drafted him because they had a plan for him.
They know that Lee may get hurt again, and they prepared accordingly. The rookie will be the starter at the beginning of the season and he’ll be the best Anthony Hitchens he can be under Lee and Marinelli’s tutelage.