Injuries have tested the Cowboys’ linebacker depth and just about everyone has been shuffled through the middle linebacker spot.
Projected starter Rolando McClain continues to work his way back from offseason knee surgery, and won’t be available for the first four games due to a suspension. Top backup Anthony Hitchens has been slowed with an ankle injury.
That has left the Cowboys shuffling multiple players through the middle linebacker position, and the one who has stuck the most is free agent signee Andrew Gachkar.
Gachkar, known more for his special teams play, has been getting the majority of the first-team reps in the middle in recent days, and the Cowboys clearly like the versatility he has shown.
“A veteran guy who has played in games, both on teams and in our defense,” coach Jason Garrett said of Gachkar. “We have a lot of confidence in him.”
The Cowboys have also looked at veterans Jasper Brinkley and Kyle Wilber in the middle, as well as rookie Damien Wilson. But Hitchens remains the top choice to play in the middle when the regular season starts with Sean Lee on the weakside and either Wilson or Wilber on the strong side.
“[Hitchens’ injury] gives other guys opportunities to show they belong, some young guys who had a lot of chances to play,” Garrett said. “Different guys played at different linebackers spots [in the preseason game at San Francisco] and got extended work at maybe some spots they hadn’t played in very much in games. We thought that was good for them and good for our team.
“We will continue our evaluation there. And you got to have a good complement of players at every position. It’s not just about the starters. It’s about the guys who can fill if the starters aren’t available. It’s a great time to evaluate those guys.”
For Wilson, he is focused on making a favorable impression so far and has done so to an extent. He’s moved ahead of Wilber, and reminds some of what Hitchens gave the team last season.
Both are versatile linebackers who were mid-round picks from a Big Ten school.
“Hitch had a heck of a season last season, I hope I can even have half of that,” Wilson said. “I’m just trying to help the team wherever I can, just pitch in however I can to make this team better.”