ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 01: Leighton Vander Esch #55 of the Dallas Cowboys looks on from the field at AT&T Stadium on October 1, 2023 in Arlington, Texas.
Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Cowboys Lose All-Pro Defender for Rest of Season

The Dallas Cowboys defense suffered a significant blow Tuesday, with former All-Pro linebacker Leighton Vander Esch out for the year.

Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch is out for the remainder of the 2023 season after suffering a neck injury during Sunday afternoon's blowout victory over the New York Giants. Owner Jerry Jones revealed the injury during one of his weekly radio interviews.

"It's a very significant loss for us. We just wish him well," Jones said, during an appearance on 105.3 FM The Fan. "The nature of his injury makes me think longer term beyond next week or next month."

Jones, however, declined to reveal whether the injury could be career-threatening for the 27-year-old. 

One of the most respected leadership voices on the Cowboys' defense, and one of its steadiest contributors, Vander Esch had produced 30 tackles prior to his injury. Meanwhile, According to Pro Football Focus, opposing quarterbacks produced a passer rating of just 87.2 when throwing in Vander Esch's direction.

If the Cowboys are going to close the gap on the Philadelphia Eagles down the stretch of the season, and potentially win the NFC East Division, Dallas is going to need to do so without Vander Esch, and find someone to make up for his production and impact on Dan Quinn's defense.

Markquese Bell and Damone Clark will likely get the first chances to fill the void in the Cowboys' linebacker corps.

Bell, in his second season, has produced 31 tackles with one forced fumble and one pass breakup while steadily playing more snaps. Meanwhile, Clark was chosen by the Cowboys in the fifth-round of the 2022 NFL Draft and has produced 39 total tackles this season, on the heels of a rookie campaign that saw him notch 47 tackles and force a pair of fumbles.

Originally chosen by the Cowboys with the No. 19 overall pick in the 2018 draft, Vander Esch has 296 total tackles in 71 career games, along with 3.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.

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