tepped up in the absence of key players like Vander Esch and Diggs.
“It’s been incredible to see the resilience and growth of our young players,” Quinn said. “Markquese Bell and Damone Clark have really stepped up and made significant contributions to our defense. They have embraced the next-man-up mentality and have exceeded expectations. It’s a testament to their hard work and dedication.”
The Cowboys’ defense has been a bright spot for the team this season, despite the injuries. They have been able to maintain a strong defensive presence and limit opponents’ scoring opportunities. The emergence of players like Bell and Clark has been crucial in their success.
Bell, who was converted from safety to linebacker after Overshown’s injury, has been a standout performer. His defensive grade on Pro Football Focus ranks him among the top linebackers in the league. He has shown versatility and skill in both coverage and run defense.
Clark, a fifth-round pick from LSU, has also made significant contributions. He leads the team in tackles and has been a reliable presence on the field. Both players credit Vander Esch for his mentorship and guidance throughout the season.
“Leighton has been a great leader and mentor to us,” Bell said. “Even though he’s not on the field, he’s still involved and helping us improve. His absence is definitely felt, but we’re doing our best to fill the void and make him proud.”
The Cowboys’ coaching staff has been supportive of Vander Esch as he contemplates his future in football. They understand the importance of prioritizing long-term health and are giving him the time and space to make the decision that is best for him.
“He’s a warrior on the field, but we want him to prioritize his health and well-being,” Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said. “We’re here to support him no matter what decision he makes. His presence and leadership are invaluable to our team, whether he’s playing or not.”
As the Cowboys continue their season, they will rely on the next-man-up mentality and the contributions of players like Bell and Clark. Their growth and development have been crucial in maintaining the team’s defensive success.
“We have a strong belief in our young players,” Quinn said. “They have proven themselves and earned their place on this team. We have confidence in their abilities and know they will continue to make an impact.”
The Cowboys’ defense will face new challenges in the coming weeks, but with the resilience and determination of players like Bell and Clark, they are confident in their ability to overcome adversity and continue to succeed.Dallas Cowboys Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch Faces Tough Decision After Second Season-Ending Neck Injury
FRISCO, Texas — Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch is at a crossroads in his football career following his second season-ending neck injury. Vander Esch sustained the injury during the team’s 42-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on “Sunday Night Football” in Week 5, and the lingering effects have prompted the Cowboys to shut him down for the remainder of the 2023 season.
This is not the first time Vander Esch has dealt with neck injuries. He underwent a fusion procedure after missing the final nine games of the 2019 season due to a neck injury. In the 2020 season, he also fractured his collarbone. His history of neck injuries dates back to his college years at Boise State, where he missed time in 2016 with a pinched nerve. Despite these concerns, the Cowboys selected Vander Esch 19th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, and he earned a Pro Bowl selection in his rookie season.
Now, the Cowboys are prioritizing Vander Esch’s long-term health and supporting him as he contemplates the possibility of retiring from the NFL. Head coach Mike McCarthy emphasized the importance of giving Vander Esch the time and space to make his decision, acknowledging the impact of his previous injuries and personal circumstances.
Teammates, such as safety Jayron Kearse, have rallied around Vander Esch, recognizing the difficult position he is in. Kearse, who himself is a father, understands the need to consider long-term health and the responsibilities that come with being a parent. The Cowboys locker room is providing support and reassurance to Vander Esch during this challenging time.
In Vander Esch’s absence, second-year undrafted player Markquese Bell has stepped up to fill the linebacker position. Bell, who was converted from safety after an injury to another linebacker during training camp, has impressed with his performance. He currently holds an impressive defensive grade and coverage grade, ranking among the top linebackers in the league.
Bell and fellow second-year linebacker Damone Clark credit Vander Esch’s mentorship for their growth and success at the position. Vander Esch’s guidance and leadership have been invaluable to their development, and they continue to lean on his advice even while he is sidelined.
The Cowboys’ defense has remained strong despite the absence of Vander Esch and cornerback Trevon Diggs, who suffered an ACL tear in practice. The team currently boasts the fourth-best scoring defense in the NFL, allowing only 18.3 points per game. Cornerback DaRon Bland, a 2022 fifth-round pick, has been a standout performer with five interceptions, including three pick-sixes, and the lowest passer rating against him this season.
Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn commends the young players for stepping up and “honoring” Vander Esch and Diggs with their performances. Quinn highlights their ability to create turnovers and make impactful plays, qualities that make them special on the field.
As Vander Esch contemplates his future in football, the Cowboys organization and his teammates stand by him, understanding the weight of his decision. While football is a significant part of their lives, they recognize that health and family are paramount. Vander Esch’s decision will ultimately be a personal one, and the Cowboys will continue to support him throughout the process.
The Cowboys’ resilience in the face of injuries and the emergence of young talents like Bell and Bland demonstrate the team’s depth and determination. As they navigate the rest of the season, the Cowboys remain focused on their goal of success while keeping Vander Esch’s well-being at the forefront of their minds.