The Dallas Cowboys made a series of roster moves ahead of the team’s Christmas Eve showdown against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Cowboys are re-signing former Texas standout linebacker Malik Jefferson after releasing the defender just days earlier. Dallas also released tight end Seth Green to make room on the team’s practice squad for Jefferson.
The Cowboys announced the roster moves on December 20, 2022 as a response to veteran linebacker Leighton Vander Esch being sidelined with a shoulder injury. Dallas had anticipated Vander Esch’s injury to be related to a previous neck issue but received some good news with the defender’s latest medical evaluation.
“Per multiple sources Leighton Vander Esch’s injury is unrelated to the neck issue that required surgery in 2019 and more to do with a pinched nerve in his trapezius in his shoulder,” ESPN’s Todd Archer tweeted on December 19. “Timeline to return not clear at moment but good news in that it’s not related to disc.”
Minshew Will Start at Quarterback vs. Cowboys in Week 16
Eagles star quarterback Jalen Hurts will not play against the Cowboys as veteran Gardner Minshew will get the start against Dallas. Minshew spent two seasons as the Jaguars starting quarterback throwing for 2,259 yards, 16 touchdowns and five interceptions while completing 66.1% of his passes during nine appearances in 2020. Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy continued to emphasize that Dallas will prepare to face both Minshew and Hurts.
“Once the news came across Dan [Quinn] and I spoke about it and definitely that’s the focal point,” McCarthy explained during a December 22 press conference. “But I think obviously, too, you gotta wait until Jalen’s ruled out of the game, also. We all understand how this works and just keep focus.”
While at Texas, Jefferson Was Once Viewed as One of the Top NFL Defensive Prospects
Jefferson was once considered one of the top NFL defensive prospects during his time with the Longhorns. Ultimately, Jefferson fell to the third round where the Bengals selected him in the 2018 NFL draft, and the linebacker’s pro career has yet to take off.
The Cowboys mark Jefferson’s sixth team with previous short stints with the Browns, Chargers, Titans, Colts and Bengals. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein compared Jefferson to Jordan Hicks heading into the 2018 draft.
“Jefferson has the desired combination of height, weight, speed that teams covet and draft, but his career production never matched his athletic traits,” Zierlein wrote during his pre-draft profile. “He lacks the instincts and play demeanor to be a middle linebacker and could move to a weakside linebacker spot in a 4-3 to take advantage of his athletic gifts. Jefferson has athletic talent, but needs to play with more of a glass-eating mentality to fit in with NFL linebackers. He has eventual starter talent and should become a very good core special teamer.”
Jefferson has yet to take a regular-season snap with the Cowboys, but the 26-year-old defender remains an intriguing player to have on the team’s practice squad. Linebacker is a position of strength for Dallas making it challenging for Jefferson to find his way on the field. The Cowboys are favored by 5.5 points over the Eagles in Week 16 following the Hurts’ news, per FanDuel.