Sometimes it takes a while for a player, especially one who is not an “ideal” fit for his team’s scheme, to find his role on the squad. That is exactly where Kyle Wilber was until he started getting snaps as the SAM linebacker due to several injuries that are plaguing the Cowboys linebacker corps. Now that he is finally seeing some action at the position, Wilber is starting to make a reputation for himself.
Jerry Jones on Kyle Wilber playing outside linebacker in place of the injured Justin Durant: “We may have really found his position.”
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) November 28, 2013
Originally drafted to play as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme that the Cowboys ran under Rob Ryan’s tenure as the defensive coordinator, the product of Wake Forest was moved to defensive end in Monte Kiffin’s 4-3 defense. Although Wilber was given opportunities to prove himself at the new position, it was a bad fit for him and the second-year player struggled this season. When injuries to Sean Lee, Justin Durant, and DeVonte Holloman forced the Dallas coaching staff to make some drastic moves during the bye week, the player who is known affectionately as Wilberforce to Blogging The Boys readers, was moved back to linebacker. He responded to the move like a fish to water.
Seeing his first action at linebacker when the Cowboys traveled to the Big Apple to face their division rivals, the New York Giants, Wilber made a significant impact on the game. Over at the mothership, the writers had some flattering words when answering questions about Wilber’s performance against the Giants.
He was the most surprising part of Sunday’s game to me. He looked good and played well enough for Jason Garrett to say the coaching staff needs to reevaluate their initial thoughts of moving the player to defensive end from linebacker in the offseason. He always seemed to me a little stiff for linebacker in the 3-4 but a little light to turn into a star at defensive end. He played better Sunday then I’d ever seen him in a Cowboys uniform. – Rowan Kavner
I’m not going to pretend to have the same level of expertise as the Cowboys’ coaching staff, but I always thought it seemed foolish to try to turn Wilber into a defensive end. I like his odds of making an impact at linebacker way more than as a lineman. – Dave Helman
In his first game at the SAM Kyle Wilber recorded a total of seven tackles, including one for a loss, as compared to the 11 he had accrued over the course of the season. In that game he played on nearly half of the team’s defensive snaps and earned the praise of his head coach.
“I think he played 25 plays in the game last week against the Giants and had 24 production points. That doesn’t mean anything to you guys but that was a really positive performance. He was around the ball a lot … He is certainly still learning the position. He doesn’t always pull the trigger as quick as he needs to just because he hasn’t seen the looks as much, but he is playing better and better.”- Jason Garrett
As a reward for his efforts, Wilber saw a little more action during the Thanksgiving game against the Oakland Raiders and once again he responded. Although he was limited to four tackles on the evening, Kyle also added a quarterback hurry. His most significant contribution; however, was a critical play that happened early in the game.
Kyle Wilber with the fumble recovery pic.twitter.com/TX7vePv8Kj
— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) November 28, 2013
While Kyle Wilber may find his playing time limited over the next few weeks due to the return of some of the other linebackers, he has made a statement to the team. If he has found his fit as a 4-3 linebacker, it will create some interesting options for a team that finds itself in a tight salary cap situation for 2014. If Dallas feels that Wilber is an option at linebacker, they will be able to save $1.25 million against the cap by cutting Justin Durant. The team would only have to eat somewhere in the area of $200,000 in dead money. Team owner Jerry Jones commented on the options that Wilber has opened up for the team.
“That may be a blessing for us.” – Jerry Jones