Photo credit: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images Sport
Author: Jon Kuzma
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There’s a lot of great linebackers in the National Football League. Luke Kuechly and Bobby Wagner both come to mind. Darius Leonard is another young player that stands out but what Leighton Vander Esch did last season was truly special.
While Leonard was in a situation where the Colts weren’t expected to be very good they had no problem throwing their rookie into the fire right away. Whereas the Cowboys decided to keep the training wheels on Vander Esch and started Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith instead. Because of that Vander Esch only started 11 games in his first year of action and he probably would’ve had more tackles than Leonard had he been on the field full-time. Despite missing more than a quarter of the season, playing time wise, Vander Esch still finished third in the entire NFL with 140 tackles. You can begin to see just how amazing the former Boise State standout has been and the crazy thing is most people didn’t think this was a great pick by the Dallas Cowboys. There seemed like a million better choices in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft but you have to applaud the Jones family because they trusted their gut and went with the guy who they felt gave them the best chance of winning. That risk ended up panning out and this football team is now in a position to make a run at a Super Bowl. All of this is possible due to the fact that DeMarcus Lawrence, Jaylon Smith, Byron Jones, and Vander Esch can clamp down on their opponents. Whether it’s against the run or defending the pass Dallas suffocates everything offenses try to do and it’s tough to beat a team when you can’t score. The heart and soul of it all is Leighton Vander Esch.
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Leighton Vander Esch is the next great linebacker to attain excellence.