Cowboys Claim Second Linebacker

The Dallas Cowboys completed a sweeping effort to restock their defense through the 2012 NFL Draft when they selected inside linebacker Caleb McSurdy out of the University of Montana in the seventh round.

McSurdy, who measured in at 6-1 and weight 245 pounds at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, is a burly, tough middle linebacker for the Grizzlies, leading the team in tackles in each of his last two seasons, including 114 stops in his senior season.

During his career, McSurdy played in 56 games, piling up 293 tackles, including 17 tackles for loss. He rarely rushed the passer from his spot in the middle of the Montana defense, collecting just 4.5 quarterback sacks in his career. He also had three career interceptions — one in his sophomore season, and two during his senior campaign.

There are knocks on McSurdy. At 6-1, some consider him a little undersized for the position (short linebackers who succeed at the NFL level like Dexter Coakley and Sam Mills are few and far between), he has short arms and runs a little stiff and upright.

However, his production can not be argued, and much of that is due to his personality and fearlessness, which allows him to plug holes and take on bigger offensive linemen who are trying to bowl him over in an effort to open a running lane. He's not exceptionally fast — he clocked a 4.97 in the 40-yard dash at the Combine — but he is smart and has good instincts, and usually can be found around the ball.

McSurdy is a two-year starter who played on special teams in his first three years and served as a team captain in his senior season. He is particularly successful against the run, blasting through blockers to get to the ball carrier, and delivering powerful shots while tackling.

What he lacks in pure athletic ability, he makes up for with solid technique. He is a very solid tackler who wraps up ball carriers, and despite moderate strength (he did 26 repetitions on the bench press with the NFL-standard 225 pounds at the NFL Combine), he is able to get through or around a lot of would-be blockers in order to make a play.

The Cowboys are undergoing a changing of the guard — or a changing of the inside linebacker — after the offseason departure of Bradie James and the presumed exit of Keith Brooking. Rising star Sean Lee should start beside either 2011 draftee Bruce Carter or free agent acquisition Dan Connor. If McSurdy makes the team, he'll be a backup and have to play on special teams.

McSurdy worked out for the Cowboys at fullback at Montana's Pro Day, but he said shortly after getting selected that he is coming to Dallas as a linebacker.

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