Anthony Hitchens primary job will be protecting the Dallas Cowboys middle linebacker investment.
Owner/general manager Jerry Jones said he saw a player with size who could run in Hitchens, the Cowboys’ fourth-round pick. He also saw a player who could step in at middle linebacker if Sean Lee went down.
“We saw a guy who could definitely improve us from where we were last year when we lost Sean Lee,” Jones said. “Probably, for me, the most important thing is how much of a hitter he is. He blows them up.”
Some believe the Hitchens pick was a reach, but Jones and the Cowboys didn’t.
“I’d say that’s the difference in the eye of the beholder,” Jones said. “He was productive. I think the other thing is that he can play some weak linebacker. He’s obviously got the power and the other thing I can say about him is that he did a good job of dropping back in pass routes. I’m not saying he’s Sean Lee, but he can drop back and get back.”
Head coach Jason Garrett noted the injuries that have happened to their linebackers over the years. Sean Lee’s never stayed healthy for a full 16 games yet in his career. The Hitchens pick allows some protection if that occurs again.
“Guys get hurt,” Garrett said. “So you want to make sure you have enough numbers there, enough competition there so if something does happen to one of your topflight players you can survive and function.”
Garrett also spoke at length after the post-draft press conference about the linebacker position, and there could be more mixing and matching there. DeVonte Holloman and Kyle Wilber will both compete at the strong side linebacker spot, and it’s possible Justin Durant could shift over to the weak side linebacker spot to compete with Bruce Carter.
Ben Gardner, who injured his pectoral muscle at the end of his college career, should be ready to go when the team starts practicing, but there’s another draft pick who may still need some time to get fully healthy.
Jerry Jones said the draft picks are healthy, in general, but wide receiver Devin Street’s shoulder injury might be one to keep an eye on.
Street was limited on the bench press at the NFL Combine, but wide receivers coach Derek Dooley worked him out at Pittsburgh and the Cowboys felt comfortable with where the receiver was at.
“Street’s the one that got a little nick right at the end of the year,” Jones said. “We don’t know, he could actually come in here and do everything at OTA’s. He did three bench presses at 115 at the Combine because he had injured that shoulder at the end of the year. On the other hand, when we went to his workout… it looked ready to roll – his bench press.”
Ahmad Dixon wasted no time, both in his phone call with the Dallas Cowboys and in his conference with media, expressing his emotions and excitement regarding his selection.
There was a ton of silence during the Cowboys call to inform Dixon he’d been selected, and that’s because Dixon was emotional and soaking up the moment with family.
Jerry Jones said that call made him appreciate being in the NFL.
“How in the world do you get to sit here and be lucky enough to be having a conversation, it means that much to him, they’re that emotional about it, celebrating going on behind and literally having an emotional reaction to getting to be a part of the NFL,” Jones said. “I really had an emotional thing along with that. That was unbelievable. He was trying so hard to talk to me.”
Jones said one of the attractions to Dixon, who was taken in the seventh round, was the passion and emotion he plays with. The owner said when the Cowboys hung up the phone, everyone winked at each other and said, ‘That’s a good way to start coming in.”
Jason Garrett would agree.
“I always try to say, ‘It’s a great day for you, but it’s also a great day for us to add you to our football team,’” Garrett said. “But it really is a great day for these guys. You get drafted once. To think that you’re getting drafted into the National Football League by the Dallas Cowboys – it’s a fantastic moment.
“When you pick nine guys, sometimes you can be a little bit numb to that. I think, the conversation we had with him was pretty one-sided, but I think in a lot of ways it indicated how special this opportunity is for all of us. It was really a moment I won’t forget real soon.”
Jerry Jones said the Dallas Cowboys took a long, hard look at the available quarterbacks on Day 3 of the draft, but they opted not to pull the trigger. Surprisingly to many, several high-profile signal-callers slipped to the later rounds, prompting the thought that Dallas could take a late round flier on the likes of Georgia’s Aaron Murray or Alabama’s A.J. McCarron.
Jones wouldn’t get specific, but he said the Cowboys evaluated the position thoroughly before opting away.
“We couldn’t justify it — the way we needed numbers on defense,” he said. “We spent a lot of time on quarterbacks, the entire position, we spent the usual amount of time and evaluated every quarterback in the draft.”
“To tell you the truth, obviously we think a lot of Brandon Weeden – he got drafted in the first round for a reason,” he said.
Stephen Jones also confirmed the Dallas Cowboys signed West Texas A&M quarterback Dustin Vaughan during undrafted free agency.
(Michael) Sam Linebacker
Being one of the most high-profile figures in football, Jerry Jones was bound to field a question about the drafting of Michael Sam.
Sam made history Saturday evening when the St. Louis Rams made him the first openly gay football player to be drafted into the NFL, as they made him the No. 249th overall pick. Jones said the Cowboys didn’t give any consideration to his sexual orientation when evaluating Sam.
“I was happy to see him drafted because it just shouldn’t be an issue. It shouldn’t be an issue that we made of that,” he said. “I thought there’d be less of an issue made if he were drafted then if he wasn’t drafted, because we’re all aware of the reality that it was the focal point here of what he is relative to that part of the society issue.”