Kyle Wilber key to replacing Lawrence

OXNARD, Calif. -- Kyle Wilber found a home at strongside linebacker after an emergency move late last season.

Now, the Dallas Cowboys will ask Wilber to bounce between positions due to need.

Wilber, who was drafted as a 3-4 outside linebacker and played defensive end last season until moving to linebacker Thanksgiving week, is the Cowboys’ incumbent starter at the Sam linebacker spot. He could also be their right defensive end in the nickel package while rookie second-round pick DeMarcus Lawrence recovers from surgery to repair his broken right foot.

“I feel good about that because he trained as an end,” defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. “Usually, you don’t like that as much because you don’t get the timing. There are so many other things that are involved in that. But he’s got some good stuff to him, and he’s smart enough to play a little dual role like that.”

Wilber, who has two sacks in two NFL seasons, had already been getting some reps in pass-rush drills as an edge rusher. Those will increase with Lawrence sidelined for the next eight to 12 weeks as the Cowboys sort through all options to replace the rookie they drafted to replace all-time franchise sacks leader DeMarcus Ware.

Jeremy Mincey will continue to work with the starting base defense, but Marinelli views him as more of an interior rusher in the nickel package. Martez Wilson, who played for three teams last season, is a speed rusher working with the second team.

Marinelli said George Selvie, the starting left defensive end, has the ability to play on the right side, where speed and quickness are at a premium. So does Anthony Spencer, but he’s on the physically unable to perform list and could remain there when the season starts.

The Cowboys had former San Diego first-round pick Larry English in for a visit last week, but no deal is imminent. They’ll continue to explore other options via free agency, but Wilber could be the key to making do without Lawrence.

“The essence of it is you try to tap into some of those pass-rushing skills that we liked in him coming out [of college],” head coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s done a real nice job at that Sam linebacker position. I think he’s growing there. He’s a very good special-teams player. To add this ability to help us on third downs as a pass rusher really just makes him a very valuable commodity for us.

“He just has to work at that. He has to somehow allocate time to develop some of those skills, but we feel like he has a chance to be pretty good at that.”