Cowboys Leighton Vander Esch Season Ends, Career Uncertain

Cowboys Redefine Defense Amidst Key Player's Injury.

by Nouman Rasool
Cowboys Leighton Vander Esch Season Ends, Career Uncertain
© Sam Hodde/Getty Images

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch's season has come to a premature end due to a severe neck injury, casting uncertainty over his future in the NFL. Jerry Jones, the Cowboys' owner and general manager, expressed deep concern for Vander Esch's well-being during his recent interview on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas.

"His health is our primary concern. This situation transcends beyond immediate game strategies and delves into what's best for his long-term health," Jones stated.

Vander Esch's Resilient Career

At 27, Vander Esch's career has been marked by his resilience in the face of injury.

This season, he was set to return from injured reserve following an October 8th incident against the 49ers. Unfortunately, the lingering effects from that game, where he suffered a neck jam after being pushed into teammate Micah Parsons, have sidelined him indefinitely.

His impressive performance this season, including 35 tackles, a fumble recovery for a touchdown, and various quarterback pressures, underscored his pivotal role in the Cowboys' defense. Vander Esch's history with neck issues has been a constant challenge since his NFL debut in 2018.

Drafted in the first round out of Boise State, despite pre-existing concerns, he quickly became a key player for the Cowboys, leading the team in tackles as a rookie and earning a Pro Bowl selection. However, a neck injury in 2019 led to a fusion procedure, and subsequent injuries in the following seasons have limited his playtime.

In response to Vander Esch's absence, the Cowboys have adapted their defensive lineup. Damone Clark has stepped into Vander Esch's position, with Markquese Bell, a converted safety, participating in sub-packages. Additionally, linebacker Rashaan Evans saw significant playtime in the recent victory against the Giants and is slated for promotion to the 53-man roster.

Head coach Mike McCarthy praised Evans' performance and indicated that further personnel decisions are imminent as the team navigates this challenging period. As the Cowboys adjust to the loss of Vander Esch, they face both immediate tactical changes and long-term considerations regarding their defensive strategy and player health management.

The team's ability to adapt and the players' response to these shifts will be crucial as they continue their pursuit of success this season.