Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch out for season due to neck injury

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch suffered a neck injury during Sunday’s match versus the Philadelphia Eagles and will not return.

Vander Esch recorded three tackles before exiting, raising his season total to 54.

Injuries were a topic surrounding Vander Esch entering the 2018 NFL draft. He was limited to just six games as a redshirt sophomore at Boise State as he dealt with a concussion and a neck injury.

His agent told the Idaho Press his client passed all medical checks during the predraft process.

Dallas was impressed enough by his film and skill set that it took him with the 19th overall pick. He went on to record 140 tackles, two interceptions and seven pass breakups as a rookie en route to the Pro Bowl. He was also voted second-team All-Pro.

Vander Esch was the first to make contact with the opposing ball carrier on 15.1 percent of his defensive snaps in 2018.

That put him well ahead of his peers, as no other off-ball linebacker with at least 400 defensive snaps finished above 12.6 percent.

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He wound up playing all 18 games (including the postseason) in his first year as a pro, though he missed the start of organized team activities in May this year with a pelvis injury. 

Vander Esch was, however, ready for the regular season.

Losing him for any period of time would be a blow to the middle of the defense. The linebacking corps still features the likes of Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith, though the Cowboys will have a hard time replacing Vander Esch.

For his part, Vander Esch has made it clear he plans on playing “12 years” in the NFL and “not four”, indicating he’s totally fine with how the Cowboys are approaching the situation.

In his stead, veteran linebackers Sean Lee and Joe Thomas have taken up the mantle on the weakside.

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