Connect with us

Star Blog

3 Reasons Why Jaylon Smith Will be Even Better in 2018

Brian Martin

Published

on

Jaylon Smith

The Dallas Cowboys took a chance in the 2016 NFL Draft when they decided to select Jaylon Smith, a linebacker out of Notre Dame, with their second-round draft pick. Smith was undoubtedly one of the most talented players in the 2016 draft class, but there were concerns he may not be able to play a single down in the NFL.

A devastating knee injury nearly ended Jaylon Smith's NFL career before it even began. Fortunately though, due to his diligent approach to rehab and mental fortitude, he attacked his rehabilitation head on and it's looking as if he could make a full recovery.

"I'm going to be better than Notre Dame 100 percent," he said recently at the Cowboys' seventh annual Reliant Home Run Derby. "People thought I'd never play the game again, and I've been able to accomplish that. Each and every day I've gotten better. Last year each game I improved. It just feels great to continue to be able to improve my health."

I don't know about you, but if Jaylon Smith is anywhere close to the player he was at Notre Dame, he's going to be even better in 2018. But, I think he's going to be even better and I'll tell you why.

Confidence and Experience

Jaylon Smith

Dallas Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith

For Jaylon Smith, being able to play an entire 16 game season after suffering what many thought to be a career ending injury probably did wonders for his psyche. That alone should make him a better football player in 2018 because it builds up his confidence.

A confident player is able to just go out and do his job and not have to worry about anything else. I can almost guarantee he was a little bit worried about how his knee would hold up, at the very least it was something that was stuck in the back of his mind. Now all he has to worry about is his preparation. Thankfully, that's where a year of experience comes in handy.

While redshirting his rookie season, he was able to pick the brain of Sean Lee. Learning how to prepare from one the best was probably invaluable for his development. But, there's nothing like getting out there and actually getting game experience. He now understands the speed of the game and can better prepare himself both physically and mentally to hold up for an entire season. All in all, the confidence and experience he gained so far should make him much better player this season.

More Playing Time

Jaylon Smith

Dallas Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith

With Anthony Hitchens sidelined due to injury at the start of the 2017 season, the Dallas Cowboys had no choice but to throw Jaylon Smith into the fire as a starter. He clearly had quite a bit of rust to knockoff, but everyone could see flashes of the player that was once considered a surefire top five draft pick in 2016 NFL Draft.

Once Hitchens returned from his injury, the Cowboys thought it best for both he and Smith to split time. Even as a rotational player, Smith managed to rack up 99 total tackles (according to coaches film), finishing second in tackles only behind Sean Lee.

More playing time doesn't always equate to better performance, but I wouldn't be surprised if Jaylon Smith leads the team in tackles in 2018. It's unclear exactly what position he will play this year, but no matter what his role has, we should expect to see much more of his signature swipe celebration.

No More Limitations

Jaylon Smith

Dallas Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith

Jaylon Smith played all 16 games in 2017 with an AFO brace that help support his drop foot condition caused by nerve damage. Fortunately, it's looking as if that will no longer be required, which means he shouldn't have any limitations moving forward. This alone should make him a much better player.

Watching Smith play last year you may have noticed that he was much better when he was moving forward then he was moving side to side. With the AFO brace it limited his movement and flexibility side to side, but since that is no longer required, he should be a much better sideline to sideline linebacker in 2018.

Some of Jaylon Smith's best attributes as a linebacker while at Notre Dame was his ability to play all over the field as a traditional LB and even as a pass rusher. Regaining his flexibility and movement will help him return to his collegiate form, and quite possibly exceed it. I'd expect the Dallas Cowboys to use him in a variety roles on defense, much like they did at Notre Dame.

Do you think Jaylon Smith will be better in 2018?



Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

Advertisement
Comments

Star Blog

Will 2019 be the Storybook Ending to Jason Witten’s Hall of Fame Career?

Brian Martin

Published

on

Is Jason Witten Looking At A Lesser Role In 2017?

It's old news now, but Jason Witten will suit up for the Dallas Cowboys once again in 2019. After less than a year in retirement, he will return to the field with the hopes of chasing down that ever elusive Super Bowl ring that has eluded him, and the Cowboys, for nearly two decades. If successful, it would be the storybook ending to an impressive Hall of Fame career.

I may be in the minority here, but I actually wasn't too excited to hear Jason Witten was going to end his retirement and rejoin the Dallas Cowboys. I thought he retired at the right time last year, going out on his terms instead of letting father time force him out. He definitely didn't have anything else to prove on the field, but sometimes hunger gets the best of us all.

That's what Jason Witten is. He's hungry! He's not stupid. He's looked this Dallas Cowboys roster over and sees just how talented it is from top to bottom. He knows this team has a real shot at reaching the promised land this year, adding yet another Super Bowl trophy to their collection. He wanted in, and rightfully so.

Witten may not have a full tank of gas anymore, but he's got enough left to help get this team to their desired destination. Despite my hesitation at first, I'm really excited to have him back in uniform. I'm really looking forward to seeing him back in action now, but more importantly having him on hand to mentor these younger players around him.

Most importantly though, I'm really hoping the 2019 season can be the storybook ending he deserves. He's been such an important ambassador to the NFL throughout his career, both on and off the field. What better way to end such a decorated career than with a little jewelry to put on his finger?

Dak Prescott, Jason Witten

Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten

The 11 time Pro Bowler still holds a lot of records in the NFL and with the Dallas Cowboys, despite not playing last season. I'll let you look those up for yourself if you want, but the impact he has had on the game throughout his career is undeniable, and should continue to be so. The Cowboys or Witten wouldn't have reunited if either thought that wasn't the case anymore.

I know many of you may be thinking I'm probably reaching little to suggest this 2019 Dallas Cowboys team has a chance at going all the way this year, but I don't think so. This is a team with Super Bowl aspirations and the roster to do it.

The Cowboys already had a championship caliber defense last season and they're even better now after making a few upgrades. This alone will make them a much more dangerous team this year, but they're not slouches on the offensive side of the ball either.

The offense was good last season after making the Amari Cooper trade, but should be able to take the next step this year. They only lost Cole Beasley, but replaced him with Randall Cobb, who has a chance to be even better if he can stay healthy. Then if you throw in the addition of Jason Witten and the development of a few players, this is looking more and more like one of the more dangerous offenses in the NFL.

Maybe, just maybe, this is the team that can finally get the Dallas Cowboys back to the Super Bowl and help Jason Witten end his Hall of Fame career in a storybook like manner. Hello Hollywood! You've got a blockbuster movie in the making.

Do you think Jason Witten can end his career in a storybook like manner?



Continue Reading

Star Blog

Travis Frederick’s Return Named Cowboys Biggest Reason For Excitement

Kevin Brady

Published

on

Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Center

Overall, Cowboys Nation feels to be in a positive mood during this year's offseason. Despite early angst over lack of action at the start of free agency, and concern over the Cowboys' draft strategy, most within the fan base seem to have high, yet realistic, hopes for the 2019 season.

Most seem to believe the NFC East will be a two team race, with the last two champions battling for the crown once again down the stretch of the season. Others can see the potential for a dark-horse candidate in Washington, but still believe the Cowboys roster has the edge.

So while Cowboys fans may not think they need a singular reason to look forward to the Fall of 2019, Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski gave them one this week.

Every NFL Team's Biggest Reason to Look Forward to 2019 Season

NFL Brent Sobleski @@brentsobleski Twitter Logo NFL Analyst The offseason can be as thrilling for NFL fans as the regular season. Player movement constantly refreshes rosters-whether through free agency, the draft or trades. Significant changes inject excitement into franchises, personnel and fanbases. A one-time league doormat can become the league's "it' team simply through a string of acquisitions.

Brent identified the biggest reason for each team to look forward to 2019, with the return of center Travis Frederick being the Cowboys' submission. There's no question that when healthy, Frederick is one of the best centers in the game, and anchors an offensive line many still consider to be at the top of the league.

"A full year with wide receiver Amari Cooper and re-signing Demarcus Lawrence to a long-term deal are both reasons for the Dallas Cowboys to be excited. However, the return of Travis Frederick to man the middle of the offensive line is far more pertinent."

Frederick missed all of the 2018 season after being diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare disease that I am not nearly qualified enough to discuss. What I do know is that it can be very serious, and it kept Frederick out for the entire year.

The Cowboys offensive line suffered during the early part of 2018, largely due in part to Travis Frederick's absence. Yes, Joe Looney filled in and played as well as anyone could have hoped for, but the disconnect in communication across the offensive line was clear without their usual center. Especially during the first couple months of the season.

If Frederick is fully back and healthy, his presence alone will take the Cowboys offensive line back towards their peak. Combine his comeback with a healthy Zack Martin, and a now bulked up Connor Williams, and the interior of this line has the chance to be special.



Continue Reading

Star Blog

3 Dallas Cowboys Who Could Make Pro Bowl Debuts this Season

John Williams

Published

on

Snap Judgments: Cowboys' Linebacker Depth Stands Out in Win

Every year, the Dallas Cowboys send quite a few players to the Pro Bowl. This year, the Cowboys sent eight players to the Pro Bowl with Leighton Vander Esch and Byron Jones being selected to their first Pro Bowl squad.

There is a lot of talent on this year's roster and the Cowboys will likely send someone to the annual all-star game that hasn't been there before. Here are three I think will make a push for Pro Bowl recognition in 2019.

Chidobe Awuzie, Cornerback

In the first half of the season, Chidobe Awuzie got picked on a bit. His coverage was always pretty good, but he allowed a ton of receptions. Awuzie allowed the ninth highest passer rating in coverage, the 12th most receptions, the 10th most yards, and tied for the sixth most touchdowns allowed weeks 1-9 of 2018.

In the second half, including the playoffs, Awuzie was much better and showed a higher level of comfort. His passer rating allowed dropped 50 points and was the 17th lowest in the league among corners who played at least 197 coverage snaps. He allowed fewer receptions, yards, and touchdowns in the 10 games over the second half than he allowed in the first eight games of the season.

Awuzie is one of the tougher players on the team. He plays with a similar edge that DeMarcus Lawrence does on the defensive line.

After spending part of his rookie season injured and rotating in, Awuzie found his stride in the second half of 2018 and was one of the Cowboys better cover players. Going into his third season in the NFL, the Cowboys 2017 second round pick looks to be an ascending player that could make some noise for postseason awards.

Tony Pollard, Running Back/Kick Returner

The Dallas Cowboys went into the 2019 NFL Draft looking to find a gadget player they could use on offense, but just as important, they wanted a player who could contribute in the return game. They got him in Rookie Tony Pollard.

Over the course of three seasons and 87 returns, Pollard averaged 30 yards per kick return and returned seven kickoffs for scores. In 2017, Pollard averaged an insane 40 yards per return. He's an incredibly dynamic player with the ball in his hands and though he wasn't used much on punt returns, shows an ability to make people miss and read his blockers.

As Stephen Jones said, "he's got a little Alvin Kamara to him." As a ball carrier, Pollard averaged 7.7 and 7.1 yards per carry over his final two seasons at Memphis. He was dynamic as a receiver as well averaging more than 12.4 yards per reception over three seasons in college.

With Ezekiel Elliott, the Dallas Cowboys may not give Pollard enough snaps and touches to have an Alvin Kamara like rookie campaign (120 carries for 728 yards, 8 touchdowns and 81 receptions for 826 yards and 5 touchdowns), but if he's given half that workload, plus what he could do on returns, he'll make noise for Pro Bowl consideration.

Jaylon Smith, Linebacker

It was a bit surprising to go back and look at which linebackers made the Pro Bowl and not see Jaylon Smith's name. As good as Rookie Leighton Vander Esch was, Jaylon Smith might have been better. By standard metrics -- tackles, interceptions, tackles for loss -- Vander Esch totaled more. Advanced metrics like defensive EPA (expected points added) and playmaking EPA, favored Jaylon Smith's season.

Cowboys Stats & Graphics on Twitter

Overall playmaking EPA rank among all NFL defenders: 5. DeMarcus Lawrence 7. Jaylon Smith 58. Leighton Vander Esch

Jaylon Smith didn't rack up the tackles like Vander Esch, but he was far more impactful over the course of the season. That's not to diminish Vander Esch's contribution to the Cowboys success in 2018. It's important to show Jaylon Smith his due, though.

Smith recorded four sacks, two forced fumbles, four passes defended to go along with his 120 combined tackles in 2018. And that was just his second full season back from the devastating knee injury he suffered in college.

Another season removed from the injury should make Jaylon Smith more confident and more explosive in 2019, which should lead to another outstanding season for the Dallas Cowboys Middle Linebacker.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Don't let anyone tell you that Pro Bowls don't matter. They do. Sure, All-Pro awards are the more highly coveted recognition, but to the players and to their agents, Pro Bowl selections matter. It's not as exclusive, but in a league with 1,696 players being one of 88 is still a really nice honor. To be a Pro Bowl player mean's you're in the top 5% of NFL players.

Obviously, we'd all prefer none of the Dallas Cowboys play in the Pro Bowl. Because that would mean they'd be preparing to play for that elusive sixth Lombardi Trophy. The Cowboys have always provided quite a few participants to the Pro Bowl game, but if the participation was zero in 2020, it wouldn't be all bad.



Continue Reading



Enjoy 40% commissions on officially licensed products as a FanPrint affiliate. You can even make your own, fully licensed Cowboys and player designs! Get started here

Trending