Dallas Cowboys starting linebacker Leighton Vander Esch got injured in Sunday night's loss to the 49ers and could soon be placed on injured reserve.
Vander Esch collided with teammate Micah Parsons in the fourth quarter of the 42-10 blowout loss and appeared to suffer a worrisome neck injury; he was helped off the field and did not return to the game.
On Monday, Adam Schefter reported that the Cowboys are considering placing the star defender on injured reserve, which would sideline him for the next four games. Vander Esch has a history of neck issues, and the Cowboys will likely treat his injury with the utmost caution.
Special teams ace C.J. Goodwin and versatile pass-catcher KaVontae Turpin also suffered injuries on Sunday and could miss some time.
The Cowboys have a bye week after Week 6 against the Chargers, which could affect whether they want to place certain players on IR or not.
Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch could land on injured reserve after injury vs. 49ers
For a defense that lost Trevon Diggs to a season-ending injury and just got blown out by San Francisco, the Vander Esch news only dampens the Cowboys' depressing vibes.
Vander Esch, a 2018 No. 19 overall pick, has started in every game this season and racked up 30 tackles. He returned a fumble for a touchdown in Week 4's win over the Patriots and has cemented himself as a reliable tackler and crucial cog of the Cowboys' doomsday defense.
Despite the 32-point loss to the 49ers, the Cowboys' defense still consists of big-play stars and is allowing an average of just 16.6 points per game.
If Vander Esch has to miss time, second-year linebacker Markquese Bell and former third-rounder Malik Jefferson (currently on the practice squad) could absorb some of his starting snaps.
With or without Vander Esch, the defense has a chance to bounce back from the deflating defeat to the 49ers in a Week 6 game against the Chargers and former offensive coordinator Kellen Moore.