Many were perplexed by the Cowboys choosing Leighton Vander Esch in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft. Though the Cowboys needed another linebacker, fans were unsure of Vander Esch and some still are skeptical.
Let’s dig into Vander Esch’s first few NFL snaps to see if we can clear up any potential worries for Cowboys Nation.
He entered the games against the 49ers with 22 seconds to play in the first quarter. He was on the strong side, where tight ends usually line up pre-snap. The 49ers handed it off to Raheem Mostert and he runs right. Perfect opportunity for Vander Esch to show off his speed. It turned to be a 19-yard gain after him and Chidobe Awuzie talked him to end the first quarter.
On his second snap, he lined up again in the same spot near the tight end in motion, he adjusts and moves toward the center line of scrimmage. A play action pass fell complete as Taco Charlton gave great pressure against 49ers quarterback Beathard
The ball didn’t go near Vander Esch, who moved towards the quarterback but then recanted his efforts after he recognized the play action pass. Very quickly I might add.
With his speed, the Cowboys see him doing very well in coverage. He has the ability to change direction and follow where the ball is going. He is somewhat like Luke Kuechly of the Carolina Panthers. He’ll definitely get some interceptions this season. He’s had a few in camp thus far.
For his third snap, he dropped in coverage to the back of the zone defense. Beathard’s pass was thrown towards Esch but was thrown behind his receiver. There was a flash of speed for Esch.
The fourth snap was another pass play and he again, backed of the zone defense, but this time the 49ers completed an 18-yard catch for a first down.
Finally, it was first-and-10 at the 49ers 49-yard line. Joe Thomas stopped running back Mostert one yard short of the line. Vander Esch, on the tight end side again, didn’t help with the tackle because he was a bit late.
What’s important here is that he is seeing the ball. Almost always, he is near the ball, adjusting to the ball. He just needs to now adjust to the speed of the game. Being his first few plays, you could tell he was getting quicker as the game went on. Dez Bryant who was live tweeting said that Vander Esch is, “a very smart patient instinctive player”.
Vander Esch is still growing and learning and adjusting to the speed of the game. Let’s see what improves this next preseason game. Hopefully, in a few weeks, Leighton Vander Esch will be helping in on tackles rather than getting late to the ball, the Cowboys will need him to step up, especially since they Cowboys bought him at such a high price.
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