How Ernie Sims Fits on the Dallas Cowboys in 2013

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How Ernie Sims Fits on the Dallas Cowboys in 2013
Ernie Sims courtesy of themonitor.com

No, Monday's re-signing of linebacker Ernie Sims probably didn't cause too much excitement amongst fans of the Dallas Cowboys.

But perhaps it should.

I recall Sims being a highly touted linebacker coming out of Florida State in 2006 but not much more. With the Cowboys heading into just their second full season in former head coach Bill Parcells' 3-4 scheme, Sims was in no way a prospect to consider given his physical stature. All 3-4 linebackers are preferably bigger than 6'0'' and 230 pounds. It's not like Dallas, picking 18th in the first round, was in position to worry about him anyway.

But in defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin's new 4-3 scheme, Sims is arguably a perfect fit, at least physically.

Some will say that Sims has not lived up to expectations as the ninth-overall selection in the 2006 NFL draft. But I say the hell with people's expectations, especially when a player is drafted by a given team at a certain position with no choice of their own.

Understanding that Sims went from a high first-round selection to an apparent journeyman within the first five seasons of his career, it's important to remember that Sims' production prior to being traded by Detroit, the team that drafted him, to Philadelphia in 2010 looked pretty good. Sims was credited with 420 tackles, 2.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and one interception prior to suiting up with the Eagles. In his first three seasons with the Lions, Sims averaged just over 123 tackles per season—that's productivity.

Then Sims had health issues in 2009, a 2-14 campaign for Detroit, and was dealt after just one season that you could say was bad, I guess.

A look back at Ernie Sims at Florida State.

Seems more like Sims was jettisoned as part of the regime change from former head coach Rod Marinelli to current blowhard Jim Schwartz.

But Marinelli is now the new defensive line coach of the Cowboys and his opinion of Sims is a bit different. Marinelli, upon drafting Sims in '06, compared the former Seminole defender to another former Florida State linebacker named Derrick Brooks.

Well, Marinelli should know, given the fact he won Super Bowl XXXVII as defensive line coach at Tampa Bay with Brooks helping to lead a defense that was easily the best in the NFL in 2002.

Yes, a comparison to Brooks may not be fair to Sims but you get the idea of the kind of pedigree that both of these defenders have and also the system they are suited for.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Tampa Bay linebacker Derrick Brooks.

Sims arrived in Dallas off the street last year following the season-ending loss of inside linebacker Sean Lee, presumably as the new middle linebacker for the Cowboys. It's not that Sims was ever a great fit for the 3-4 alignment, but rather that Dallas was just desperate.

But things have changed with the 4-3 alignment being brought back after years of embarrassment brought forth by the 3-4 scheme that never was built right, especially on the defensive line.

Sims was still able to rack up 42 tackles in his 10 games with the Cowboys last season and it appears that a guy who was just filling in until others got healthy is now more of a necessity.

My biggest question surrounding Sims is where exactly he'll reside on the depth chart. In other words, is he backing up Bruce Carter as a weak-side linebacker or is he a candidate for the strong side?

I'm leaning towards his playing understudy to Carter—unless Carter actually ends up on the strongside, which I kind of doubt.

Rob Carr/Getty Images
Dallas linebacker Sean Lee.

Kyle Wilber is seemingly the only viable candidate to grab the starting strong-side linebacker position with the Cowboys and this is only based on his physique. At 6'4'' and 245 pounds, Wilber certainly looks the part playing the strong side.

Then again, I'm not going to pretend to have each linebacker position predicted until Kiffin places his stamp on this defense.

But either way, Sims represents a potential starter with plenty of experience in the system now employed by the Cowboys, or he's reliable depth.

There's nothing that says that Sims can't make an impact with the Cowboys in 2013, especially when considering that both Lee and Carter are coming off of injuries last season and also had injury issues in college. Both of them, mind you.

The Cowboys learned the hard way that not having depth can be a real killer, even if last year's rash of injuries was highly excessive and unusual. No team in the NFL would have been prepared for that.

But the entire depth chart moving forward will look very different for the Cowboys very soon, especially following the 2013 NFL draft in April.

What kind of impact will Ernie Sims make on the Dallas defense in 2013?

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Sims is a classic weak-side linebacker who played rather well for the Cowboys last season, especially given the circumstances. In the 4-3 scheme he should be even better and he might have the inside track for a starting job.

Aside from Wilber, only Alex Albright looks like a competitor for the strong-side linebacker spot and his size might make him a little large. But this could be needed if Dallas actually plans on playing well-undersized Anthony Spencer at defensive end.

But you can easily argue that Sims has the most recent experience of anybody on the roster in the 4-3 alignment and, at least right now, this is why he is so valuable to the Cowboys moving forward.

 

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