OXNARD, Calif. – Kyle Wilber came to the Dallas Cowboys in the fourth round of the 2012 draft as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. He moved to defensive end in 2013 when the Cowboys switched schemes. By the end of the season he was a strongside linebacker.
Can he play tight end or fullback, too?
“If they ask me and feel like I can play it,” he said, “I’ll do it.”
The Cowboys are testing Wilber’s versatility again after losing rookie defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence for eight to 10 weeks with a broken foot. He was seen as a late-game pass-rusher early in camp, taking some turns in drills with the defensive ends, but now could be a big part of the nickel pass rush.
“It’s like coach says, ‘The more you can do,'” Wilber said. “If they put me at D end, they put me at D end. If they put me at linebacker, I’m a linebacker.”
Wilber became a linebacker almost out of desperation last season. Injuries tore that position apart, much like they did the defensive line. In the first 10 games of the season at defensive end, Wilber had more than one tackle in a contest just once, along with two sacks. In his final six games he had 31 of his 42 tackles, including two for a loss.
The New York Giants have used Mathias Kiwanuka as a strongside linebacker in their 4-3 base defense and put his hand on the ground on third down. The Cowboys are about to ask Wilber to do the same for them.
“Honestly, I’m just trying to create an opportunity to get a spot down there at D end, too,” Wilber said.
Said defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, "He’s physical. He comes to work every single day. He’s smart. They love him in special teams. Whatever we’ve asked him to do. We asked him to play defensive end at 250 pounds last year. He tried to get his weight up and he did some good things. He really did. Now he stands up and he says, ‘Man, I like this tight end. I’ve been playing over this left tackle at 330 pounds. Now I’m playing against a tight end, a running back. It’s good.’ He’s got the movement set that he can go out and cover people, and he’s pretty good in zone, too. I think he can add in as a rusher, too.”