In an interesting selection, the Dallas Cowboys took linebacker Anthony Hitchens with their fourth-round pick. It would appear that Big D is hoping the Iowa product can add depth to a position that has seen its fair share of injuries in recent years.
Justin Durant missed six games last year. Bruce Carter and Sean Lee have missed a combined 21 games over the past two seasons. While Hitchens might be listed as a backup on the final 53-man roster, there's a chance he'll see some real playing time.
The place Hitchens will probably be most utilized in his rookie season is special teams. The unit is in need of someone to step up and replace the tackling production of Danny McCray, who left in free agency.
Hitchens knows how to punish ball-carriers when he tackles them and has some solid speed to him as well. At 6'0", 240 pounds, his athletic frame will also come in handy at the NFL level. He'll need to utilize it when playing on special teams and when he gets opportunities on defense.
Something that the Dallas coaching staff will immediately need to work on with the fourth-rounder, however, is how he wraps up ball-carriers.
Oftentimes in college, Hitchens preferred to lay the big hit instead of wrapping up, and at times, it cost him. Sometimes the big hit doesn't land as planned and the ball-carrier gets away.
What is also a tad concerning is the fact that NFL.com's Nolan Nawrocki had Hitchens projected as either a seventh-round pick or an undrafted free agent.
In the fourth round, the Cowboys should have addressed other defensive positions like safety and defensive tackle. Still, one can see why they elected to bring in more insurance at linebacker.
Behind starters Durant, Carter and Lee, 2013 sixth-rounder DeVonte Holloman is the only notable name. While Holloman did tally two sacks and 14 tackles during his rookie year, Dallas needs to be able to count on other backups at such a crucial position.
If the Cowboys linebacker corps can avoid the injury bug in 2014, Hitchens will get the chance to learn from two promising young linebackers.
After the disappointing season that Carter had last season, Hitchens could even compete for his starting gig if the former doesn't shape up. In 15 games last season, Carter recorded just 18 more tackles than he did in 2012 when he played in just 11 contests.
It's pretty unlikely that Carter will lose his starting gig to the newest Cowboy, but it could happen. Head coach Jason Garrett showed when he benched safety J.J. Wilcox last year that he's willing to bench projected starters if need be.
Hitchens will get the chance to learn from two of the more promising and talented linebackers in the NFL. He could even compete for one of their jobs and at the very least will be a welcome addition to the special teams squad.
Only time will tell what he develops into, but Hitchens certainly fills a need for the Dallas defense from a depth prospective.
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