Cowboys getting strained at linebacker spot

FRISCO, Texas -- With Sean Lee working through a hamstring strain and Anthony Hitchens not all the way back from a tibial plateau fracture suffered in the preseason, the Dallas Cowboys might be forced to go with four linebackers Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams.

That is quite a strain to put on one position group, especially with Jaylon Smith continuing to work his way back from a serious knee injury that forced him to miss last season.

If Lee can’t play, veteran Justin Durant would start at weak-side linebacker with Smith in the middle and Damien Wilson at strong-side linebacker. In the sub packages, all three could find themselves in a rotation.

After playing just three defensive snaps in the first two games, Durant played in 32 snaps in Monday’s win against the Arizona Cardinals, with the Cowboys using their “Deacon” package -- with three down linemen and two linebackers -- more.

Durant played a key role last year in the sub packages and was a starter during his first run with the Cowboys in 2013-14.

“I approach every week the same as I’ve been doing the past 10 years,” Durant said.

The Cowboys could look at fullback Keith Smith as an emergency linebacker. He joined the Cowboys as an undrafted free-agent linebacker in 2014 before moving to fullback last year.

The Cowboys also worked out linebackers Richie Brown, Kenneth Olugbode and Eric Pinkins on Thursday. They were among the final cuts of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns and New York Giants, respectively. On Wednesday, the Cowboys signed linebacker Tre'Von Johnson to the practice squad. He replaced Mark Nzeocha, who joined the San Francisco 49ers' active roster.