Cowboys Get ‘Best-Case Scenario’ on Leighton Vander Esch Injury: Report

Leighton Vander Esch

Getty Leighton Vander Esch

For the Dallas Cowboys and ailing linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, relatively speaking, this is as good as it was going to get.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Monday that Vander Esch “cleanly” broke his collarbone in Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams. He will undergo reparative surgery and is expected to return to the field in roughly 6-8 weeks.

“Probably best-case scenario for the #Cowboys,” Rapoport tweeted.

In a radio interview Monday, Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones confirmed LVE will be moved to injured reserve until he’s healed.

Vander Esch was injured in the first quarter of Dallas’ regular season-opener and quickly ruled out for the remainder of the contest. He made three tackles prior to exiting.

The team’s 2018 first-round pick, Vander Esch is central to the Cowboys’ defense, a true three-down ‘backer. But he’s also officially injury-prone, having missed seven games in 2019 following a career-threatening bout of spinal stenosis and subsequent neck surgery, from which he fully recovered.

“I know how it feels to be injured, to suffer an injury,” Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith said after the game, via The Dallas Morning News. “I don’t wish that on anyone. It’s definitely tough. …He’s going to come back strong.”

Assuming he’s sidelined for the entire eight-week period, Vander Esch will miss matchups against the Falcons, Seahawks, Browns, Giants, Cardinals, Washington, Eagles, and Steelers.

The Cowboys have a Week 10 bye before facing the Vikings in Minnesota on Nov. 22.

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Replacing LVE

The injury further complicates matters for a Dallas LB corps that already is without longtime starter Sean Lee (IR, sports hernia). The club also scratched reserve Luke Gifford for Week 1, whittling the depth chart to Smith, Aldon Smith, Joe Thomas, and Justin March.

Joe Thomas received first dibs at filling in for Vander Esch and was unsurprisingly ineffectual as the Rams (153 rushing yards) employed a successful clock-killing, ground-and-pound approach, running right at the weakened unit.

Thomas is likely to remain in the lineup for the team’s ensuing home contest versus Atlanta. However, look for the Cowboys to secure an insurance policy via the practice squad, with buzzed-about undrafted rookie Francis Bernard a prime promotion candidate.

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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL