Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Cowboys with options at strongside linebacker
By Todd Archer
IRVING, Texas -- Like all coaches, Jason Garrett prefers to have options.
When he had options to make changes in the starting lineup earlier in the season, he was not afraid to make changes, be it Brian Waters for Mackenzy Bernadeau at right guard, Orlando Scandrick for Morris Claiborne at cornerback or Ernie Sims for Bruce Carter at weakside linebacker.
Injuries have taken away some options, but the Cowboys have an option at strongside linebacker with Kyle Wilber playing well in his two starts and Justin Durant coming back from a hamstring injury.
Wilber had 13 tackles, two quarterback pressures and a tackle for loss in the wins against the New York Giants and Oakland Raiders. Durant, who earned praise from defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, has 28 tackles, two quarterback pressures and one tackle for loss in nine games.
“It’s just good to have those guys playing,” Garrett said. “We’ll figure out the best guys. It was just nice to see Kyle Wilber step in there and be a contributor. We talked about it the other day – really, really productive in both games, around the football, making plays on the ball, tackles for loss. So that’s been a real good thing for our team that he’s been able to step up and really step up and have more of a role at that position than he did at the defensive end position. That’s certainly been positive for us. But Justin Durant has done a real nice job for us when he’s played this year. So just having both those guys is good for our team.”
Wilber might finally be settling into a position that fits him most after the Cowboys tried him at outside linebacker in a 3-4 last year and at defensive end in their 4-3 this year.
“He’s just been productive,” Garrett said. “He’s been around the ball. He’s made tackles. He’s made tackles for losses. He’s made plays on the ball, fumble recoveries, caused fumbles. It’s just a really good thing. We thought he was a good football player coming out of school, [and] that’s why we drafted him in the fourth round. The scheme that we were playing, we felt like he was best suited to play the outside linebacker, essentially a rush linebacker, in a 3-4 scheme. I think he probably benefitted from some of the times that he’s dropped in that 3-4 scheme and he draws from some of that experience playing as an off-the-ball linebacker. But you literally saw him get better diagnosing things over the last couple weeks. Sometimes he was a little hesitant at the beginning, but I think he was seeing schemes better and pulling the trigger more quickly and just making more plays – a real positive thing for our team.”