Jabril Cox boasted immediately after he was drafted that “I’m glad Dallas picked me and I can show the whole league what they missed out on.”
So far, so good for the Cowboys‘ fourth-round rookie linebacker, who made his presence felt during Saturday’s minicamp practice, intercepting tryout quarterback Brady Davis on a deflected pass in team drills.
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A two-time FCS All-American, Cox is an explosive, sideline-to-sideline rover capable of working deep safety or in-the-box duties. The 23-year-old was a one-man wrecking crew for LSU last season, notching 37 solo stops, 6.5 tackles for loss, five pass deflections, three interceptions, and one defensive touchdown.
A high school quarterback, Cox began his collegiate career at North Dakota State where he was named the conference Defensive Player of the Year and first-team All-MVFC in 2018 after recording 9.5 TFLs, four sacks, and four INTS (two pick-sixes).
“The only real difference in studying his tape from North Dakota State and LSU is that Cox looks substantially more explosive than everyone else on the field for the Bison,” NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein noted in his scouting profile. “He looks like he fits right in with the athletes at LSU, though. He’ll need to be placed in a scheme where he can play proactive, attacking football rather than getting bogged down as a thinker. He’s extremely fast with verified playmaking traits and credentials. His cover talent could help him quickly get on the field. He’s below average in diagnosing and using his hands, which can put him in recovery mode at times. However, traits and talent should be enough to overcome those issues and help make him a solid, three-down starter within the first couple of seasons.”
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Future of the Position
The Cowboys have remade their LB corps this offseason, losing Sean Lee to retirement and opting to decline Leighton Vander Esch’s fifth-year contract option. Another overhaul could come in 2022 when, preceding Vander Esch’s likely foray into free agency, the team may opt to release fellow starter Jaylon Smith.
Dallas hedged its bets, both for the short and long term, by using its first-round pick (No. 12 overall) on Micah Parsons and later doubling down with Cox (No. 115). Parsons is expected to start at middle linebacker and Cox should see snaps at weakside ‘backer under new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.
“There is definitely command and confidence,” Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy remarked Saturday.
Parsons and Cox each impressed by demonstrating speed and athleticism on the field, qualities the organization has long lacked at the position — qualities that were noticeably absent among the historically bad 2020 outfit.
“Micah Parsons will likely do a little bit of everything at the linebacker position, from box work to rushing in certain packages, and that was on display Saturday,” the team’s official website noted. “The first-round pick showed explosiveness diagnosing and busting up a couple of run plays, and he also got past fourth-round pick Josh Ball on one play while rushing from the left edge.
“The Cowboys’ second draft pick at the linebacker position also was productive. Fourth-round pick Jabril Cox was one of the top coverage linebackers in the 2021 class, and he showed why in team drills, dropping back some 30 yards and picking off a deflected pass.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL