The Dallas Cowboys are in a sorry state of affairs at linebacker, where it’s now Jaylon Smith and … the others.
Thanks to the injury bug claiming starters Leighton Vander Esch (neck) and Sean Lee (pectoral/thigh), the Cowboys, desperate for depth, elevated LB Chris Covington from the practice squad to the active roster on Saturday, per the Dallas Morning News.
In a corresponding move with the roster at its 53-player capacity, the team released offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch, according to ESPN’s Todd Archer.
It’s the second time this season that Covington, a 2018 sixth-round draft pick, has been promoted from the taxi squad. Dallas brought him up on Sept. 10 after waiving running back Jordan Chunn.
A former quarterback at Indiana University, Covington (6-2, 245) converted to linebacker as a sophomore and finished his collegiate career with 118 tackles (70 solo), 15 tackles for loss, five sacks, and five passes defensed.
Covington clocked a 4.78 in the 40-yard dash and logged 23 bench press reps at the 2018 Scouting Combine. He was billed as a late-round prospect by NFL.com draft guru Lance Zierlein.
Covington is a better athlete than skilled linebacker at this point in his development, but he has intriguing length, speed and athleticism that could be moldable on the next level. He still needs to get stronger and improve his technique, but he could become a special teams factor on coverage teams if he makes the squad. His ability to play in the league may rest upon whether or not he can improve his instincts and feel for blocking schemes.
Covington — not to be confused with teammate Christian Covington — made five appearances for the Cowboys as a rookie, notching just one tackle. He hasn’t played in a regular-season game this season.
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Lee Questionable, Could Go
As previously reported, Lee is sidelined by a new thigh ailment to pair with his prior pec issue. He did not practice Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday and officially is listed as questionable for the team’s 3:25 p.m. CT contest against the Los Angeles Rams. Dallas will release its inactives 90 minutes before kickoff.
The tag is a bit optimistic for the serially-injured Lee, who’s never completed a 16-game regular season since entering the league in 2010. But the public-facing club stood behind its belief, with vice president Stephen Jones peddling good news on the ex-All-Pro defender.
“We feel good about him being able to play this week,” Jones said Friday, per The Athletic.
Next Men Up
LVE’s absence — he’ll be re-evaluated next week — and the insertion of Lee into the lineup have meant an increase in snaps for reserve ‘backer Joe Thomas, who’s recorded 30 tackles through 13 appearances. For the sake of context, he combined for 28 tackles in the 2017 and 2018 campaigns. Thomas will start for Vander Esch versus the Rams.
Gifford, who overcame an early-season injury of his own, has appeared in only five games and converted his scant reps into six tackles on special teams. He’ll be active and in the defensive lineup, filling in for Lee in base packages if the latter sits out. The Cowboys reportedly are “high” on Gifford.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL