One of many greatest surprises for the Cowboys within the 2021 NFL Draft was the truth that they landed LSU linebacker Jabril Cox within the fourth spherical. As a extremely productive participant in his lone season with the Tigers, Cox was projected by many to be a second-round decide and one of many higher linebackers in his class. Cox was particularly singled out as presumably the perfect linebacker protection within the draft, theoretically boosting his inventory because the league grows increasingly go joyful by the 12 months.
And but, Cox was nonetheless there within the fourth spherical, and the Cowboys – who later admitted to debating between him and Nahshon Wright a spherical earlier – pulled the set off. Jerry Jones wasn’t shy on the time concerning the crew’s hopes that Cox would pair with first-round decide Micah Parsons to kind a dominant linebacker duo for years to return, though Cox wasn’t anticipated to get a lot work in his rookie behind veterans Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith.
Nicely, a kind of veterans (Smith) was reduce earlier than the Cowboys even made it to their bye week, and Vander Esch had his costly fifth-year choice declined earlier than signing a team-friendly one-year deal to return to Dallas this 12 months. In the course of that, although, Cox had a rookie season ended early by damage. That hasn’t appeared to change the crew’s expectations for Cox heading into 2022, although.
What He is Performed
Cox dominated for 3 years at North Dakota State earlier than transferring to LSU, changing into the veteran chief of a protection that had misplaced most of its starters the 12 months prior within the Tigers ’nationwide championship run. Cox confirmed that he may deal with the leap in high quality of competitors, going from the FCS to the SEC. However with a crowded linebacker room in Dallas, Cox took on a particular groups function early within the season.
In an early-season blowout wins over each the Eagles and Giants, Cox noticed 4 defensive snaps in every of these video games. The Giants recreation represented Cox’s first profession deal with, which was controversial as a result of it resulted in Giants quarterback Daniel Jones struggling a concussion. The following week, in a win over the Patriots, Cox made one other deal with whereas taking part in in a particular objective line defensive package deal. It appeared as if defensive coordinator Dan Quinn was beginning to check the waters on getting his rookie concerned.
Alas, the very subsequent week Cox went down with an damage. Exams later confirmed it was an ACL damage, and Cox’s rookie 12 months was over earlier than it ever acquired going. Cox ended up ending the 12 months with simply two tackles on 9 defensive snaps. He additionally performed on 62% of the crew’s particular groups as much as that time, which was good for fourth-most on the crew at that time.
What He Can Do
Getting into 2022, the ceiling for Cox is sky excessive. Whereas Dallas introduced again Vander Esch, they let Keanu Neal depart in free company. The one notable additions to the linebacker corps within the offseason had been by means of the draft, the place Dallas chosen Cox’s former LSU teammate Damone Clark in addition to Oklahoma State standout Devin Harper. Clark is predicted to overlook most, if not all, of the 2022 season whereas Harper is predicted to play totally on particular groups.
That opens up a significant function for Cox in his return from damage, and Stephen Jones fanned the flames of the hype machine along with his expectation for Cox to “fill proper in the place Keanu [Neal] left off. ”
Contemplating that Neal performed on simply over 50% of all defensive snaps final 12 months and served as the highest protection linebacker on the roster, given his expertise taking part in security, that creates a really distinct function for Cox to soak up and only a few options to take it away. from him.
The query for Cox is how nicely he can play after recovering from a fairly severe damage. If he could make a full restoration, then Cox has the potential to turn out to be an ideal associate with Parsons; Cox’s top-shelf protection expertise completely complement Parsons’ elite go dashing, giving Quinn two very distinctive items in the midst of his protection.
Till Cox can show he is returned to that stage, although, count on him to play in a rotational function like Neal did final 12 months. That doubtless seems like Cox coming in for passing downs, whereas Vander Esch takes his place on early run downs. The opposite issue to think about right here is security Jayron Kearse who incessantly performed within the field as a de facto linebacker final 12 months, doubtlessly additional limiting Cox’s snaps early on.
The straightforward resolution to that’s for Cox to play just like the participant that so many draft specialists had been so excessive on a 12 months in the past, however that’s not essentially a assure but. Essentially the most real looking expectations for Cox are modest, particularly early on as he will get again into taking part in form. However Cox appears destined for a pointy enhance in use from final 12 months, and doubtlessly entrenching himself as a starter by the tip of the 12 months, if not sooner.