Editor’s note: SportsDay Cowboys insider Kate Hairopoulos broke down each of the team’s position groups ahead of training camp. This installation, analyzing the Cowboys’ linebackers, is the seventh of the series.
On the roster: Kennan Gilchrist, Anthony Hitchens, Joseph Jones, Sean Lee, John Lotulelei, Mark Nzeocha, Jaylon Smith, Lucas Wacha, Kyle Wilber, Damien Wilson
2016 recap: Lee is coming off a rare healthy season, an All-Pro one at that, after leading the team from the weak side spot with a career-high 145 tackles, which ranked fourth in the NFL. Hitchens started every game at middle linebacker and hasn’t missed a game in his three seasons. Justin Durant, a late addition to the roster, played 26 percent of defensive snaps but didn’t return or sign with another team in free agency. Wilson showed promise, starting six games and finishing 11th on the team in tackles with 34.
2017 outlook: After Lee and Hitchens, Dallas doesn’t have ready answers. Wilson is facing charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and his availability is uncertain. He was in line to start at the strong side position. Smith’s progress will be watched obsessively during training camp, but it’s still unclear how much he’ll be able to contribute without a fully regenerated nerve in his knee. Depth at the position is shaky. Nzeocha and Wilber played sparingly in 2016.
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