The 2018-19 NFL playoffs open this weekend and, for fans of the Boise State Broncos, the University will be well represented.
Represented on the Dallas Cowboys, that is.
It may seem every former Bronco that makes it onto an NFL lands on the Dallas Cowboys roster. Heading into the playoffs, five players are currently with the team: Leighton Vander Esch, DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, Darian Thompson and Cedrick Wilson. (Plus, let’s not forget a certain quarterback coach who goes by the name of Kellen Moore).
Wilson has not played all season due to an injury suffered in training camp. And Thompson, who has played 10 games mostly on special teams, is questionable with a groin injury heading into Saturday’s matchup against the Seattle Seahawks.
The stars of the bunch are Vander Esch and Lawrence. In his rookie season, Vander Esch has been more-than-worthy of the first-round pick Dallas used on him. He has played in all 16 games, seeing plenty of time on the field from the get go.
Vander Esch slid into the role of full-time starter when veteran linebacker Sean Lee got injured. Displaying the same traits and talent he showed at Boise State, Vander Esch ended the season with 140 tackles and two interceptions. He had ten or more tackles in six games, including 15 against Tampa Bay and a 13-tackle solo effort against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Vander Esch suffered a lower leg injury against the New York Giants last Sunday, but will play against the Seahawks.
DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford
Lawrence has had another monster season, albeit just off course from the 14.5 sacks he had in 2017.
The fifth-year defensive end has 64 tackles in 2018 and added 10.5 sacks, bringing his career total to 34. Lawrence also had one interception and two forced fumbles.
Crawford continues to be a clog in the middle of the defensive line for the Cowboys. He has 5.5 sacks in 2018.
Crawford suffered a scary neck injury in week 16. Results were positive, however, and though he was inactive in week 17, returned to practice this week. He plans to play on Saturday.
Charles Leno Jr and Orlando Scandrick
In his fifth season, Charles Leno Jr continued to be an anchor on the offensive line of the Chicago Bears. Leno played at an all-pro level all season. The defense might get most of the praise, but Leno’s play up front on offense helped the team make a leap in 2018.
Orlando Scandrick is the elder statesman of the bunch and he is the only former Bronco guaranteed to be around come week 2 of the playoffs. Scandrick is on the Kansas City Chiefs, who own the number one seed in the AFC.
Scandrick started most of the season for the Chiefs, until he was benched in week 16. Head coach Andy Reid decided to play two rookie corners and it will be interesting to see how much Scandrick is used in the playoffs.
He has 44 tackles and 1 interception this season.
Nine other players ended the season on NFL rosters. Some saw action, while others bounced around between practice squads or were injured. A quick look:
Jay Ajayi (Philadelphia Eagles): Tore his ACL after four games, missed rest of season
Doug Martin (Oakland Raiders): 723 rushing yards, 4 TD’s, 4.2 ypc
Kamalei Correa (Tennessee Titans): 19 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble
Tanner Vallejo (Cleveland Browns): 27 tackles, 1 forced fumble
Jeremy McNichols (Tennessee Titans): 2 carries, 4 yards while with the Colts.
George Iloka (Minnesota Vikings): 16 tackles, 2 forced fumbles
Jamar Taylor (Denver Broncos): 18 tackles, 1 forced fumble. Played 10 games w/Arizona and 4 w/Denver
Matt Paradis (Denver Broncos)
Rees Odhiambo (Arizona Cardinals)
Former BSU cornerback Mercy Matson has also reportedly just signed with the Eagles after playing the CFL the past few seasons.
Dallas hosts Seattle at 6:15 pm (MT) on Saturday. The game can be seen on Fox.
Chicago hosts the defending champion Eagles at 2:40 pm (MT) Sunday on NBC.