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
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
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 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?
Cowboys en Español: 3 Escenarios Para el Futuro de David Irving
En la NFL, la falta de noticias en Junio generalmente significa buenas noticias. Los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys saben esto mejor que nadie y en caso de que lo hayan olvidado, David Irving se aseguró de recordarle a Cowboys Nation el porque de esta frase.
La semana pasada, se anunció que David Irving recibirá una suspensión de cuatro partidos por haber violado la política de abuso de substancias de la liga. Es la segunda suspensión que Irving recibe en años consecutivos y lógicamente, esto es preocupante para el equipo de los Dallas Cowboys.
Las últimas dos temporadas hemos visto a Irving convertirse en una pieza de suma importancia para la defensiva. El año pasado, Irving consiguió siete sacks (capturas) en sólo ocho juegos y se convirtió en un caza cabezas muy efectivo.
Demostrando ser uno de los jugadores más talentosos de su posición en la NFL, es difícil imaginar el futuro del #95 en la liga. Tras recibir un tender de segunda ronda hace unos meses (explico que es eso aquí), el futuro de Irving es muy incierto. Por eso, esta semana en Cowboys en Español, exploraremos tres escenarios posibles para el defensivo de 24 años.
#1 David Irving se va de Dallas prematuramente
Hace unos días, me dediqué a defender mi posición de que los Cowboys estarían cometiendo un error al cortar a David Irving. A pesar de que realmente despedirse de un defensivo como Irving parece muy poco probable, es un escenario que debemos discutir.
Irving ha sido un dolor de cabeza para el equipo en más de una ocasión. Dos suspensiones en años consecutivos no es una buena imagen para un jugador que busca un contrato jugoso al terminar el año.
Si Jason Garrett y la administración quieren "dar un mensaje" cortando a David Irving, ¿qué tanto serviría? Esta idea de enviar un mensaje, a la hora de pensarlo fríamente, parece una idea romántica de parte de nosotros los fans. Al final de cuentas, estamos hablando de un locker room lleno de jugadores adultos y profesionales, no de un grupo de niños.
Además, bien sabemos todos que Irving no es el único Cowboy que ha tenido problemas. ¿Será el hecho de que ha ocurrido dos años seguidos razón suficiente para dejarlo ir? Personalmente, no lo creo. Los Cowboys dejarían ir a un jugador muy bueno en una posición de necesidad.
Datone Jones, Jihad Ward y Maliek Collins podrán ser suficiente. Pero David Irving es especial en el campo. Mejor tenerlo por 12 juegos a tenerlo cero.
#2 Irving se queda para el 2018, pero no más allá
David Irving recibió un contrato de un año que le pagaba (antes de ser suspendido) 2.91 millones de dólares. Si hubiera demostrado que no era problemático y que podía mantenerse al 100% toda la temporada, probablemente hubiera recibido un gran contrato de los Cowboys o de otro equipo en la NFL.
Sin embargo, el dicho lo dice todo. "En la NFL, la disponibilidad es la mejor habilidad." Irving no se ha terminado de ganar la confianza necesaria para una gran extensión.
En este punto, Dallas puede esperar a que su tackle defensivo regrese de su suspensión, juegue doce juegos con ellos y les consiga un sack por juego por menos de tres millones de dólares. Después de eso, el equipo pude darse el lujo de dejarlo ir sin una extensión y verlo convertirse en un agente libre.
#3 Irving se queda por más de un año
En este caso, hay dos "sub-escenarios." Suponiendo que, efectivamente, Irving regresa y juega como sabemos que puede hacerlo, no será tan fácil dejarlo ir. Si llega a sorprender y demuestra que realmente es quien creemos que es y consigue diez capturas en sólo doce juegos, ¿realmente no le dará el equipo una oportunidad?
La primera opción sería asignarle la etiqueta franquicia y obligarlo a jugar un año más para un equipo que busca desesperadamente un Super Bowl.
Si se sienten cómodos dándole el salario de una etiqueta franquicia para evitar perderlo, ¿podríamos culparlos después de que les dio por ejemplo, diez capturas? Yo, personalmente, no podría hacerlo.
La otra opción, y una que podría ser la más realista, es más simple. La inmadurez y los problemas de Irving le costarán la confianza y el interés de otros equipos y es posible que en un punto, Dallas sea el único equipo que le pueda brindar seguridad de trabajo.
De esta manera, Dallas podría ofrecerle una extensión de dos, tres o más años a un precio mucho más barato que el de cualquier DT que consiga dos dígitos de sacks.
David Irving sin duda tiene un futuro incierto delante de él. Realmente sería una sorpresa verlo fuera de Dallas en el 2018, pero más allá, quien sabe lo que pueda pasar. Por ahora, esperemos que una vez que vuelva de la suspensión, esté en forma para ir detrás de los quarterbacks oponentes.
Con un poco de suerte, quizá nos olvidaremos de esto en Noviembre.
Is Kris Richard Actually Jason Garrett’s Replacement, Not Rod Marinelli’s?
Much has already been made about the Dallas Cowboys hiring of Kris Richard. He was brought in to be this year's defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator, but it's a title I don't think he will hold for long.
It has already been speculated that Kris Richard will become Rod Marinelli's successor to become the Dallas Cowboys next defensive coordinator. Marinelli in fact contemplated retirement after the completion of the 2017 season, but decided to give it another go in 2018. But, anything beyond that is unknown at this point.
It isn't that hard to believe that Kris Richard will be the Dallas Cowboys next defensive coordinator. He already has a pretty good track record as a DC from his time with the Seattle Seahawks (2015-2017). During that time, the Seahawks had one of the better defenses in the league, which is why a lot of Cowboys fans are excited about what he can do in Dallas.
This was a terrific hire by the Dallas Cowboys. Richard is one of the top up-and-coming coaches in the league today and is highly respected around the league. For him to take a step back from defensive coordinator to become the DB coach/passing game coordinator in Dallas is a little confusing.
Why would he take a step back in his coaching career to come to the Dallas Cowboys?
Before he agreed to come to Dallas, Richard interviewed for the head-coaching job with the Indianapolis Colts. To already be considered a head-coaching candidate tells you all you need to know about the trajectory of Richard's career. Again, why take a step back with the Cowboys?
We all know that Jerry Jones is a fantastic salesman. He must've been able to convince Richard that he has a chance at a big promotion sometime soon. But, would a promotion to defensive coordinator be enough for Richard? Does he have his eyes set on something bigger?
I know that I'm not alone, but Jason Garrett is on thin ice this season. If he doesn't at least get the Dallas Cowboys into the playoffs this year, he could be looking for a new job, which would create a vacancy at head coach. This could be the kind of opportunity Kris Richard is looking for.
I find it a little hard to believe that Kris Richard would be willingly to come coach in Dallas knowing that the entire coaching staff could be dismissed after the season if Jason Garrett isn't successful. That's not typically the kind of job security you look for, so something has to have been promised to him behind closed doors.
I know it's a lot of speculation right now, but I don't think it's completely out of the realm of possibility. Someone is going to have to replace Jason Garrett if he falters this season and Kris Richard is a logical choice. After all, it's kind of the way Garrett became the head coach of the Cowboys when he replaced Wade Phillips. Could history repeat itself?
Do you think Kris Richard is Jason Garrett's eventual replacement?
NFC East Position Rankings: The Quarterbacks
The long NFL offseason is finally beginning to come to a close, with teams participating in mandatory mini-camps and training camps just a month away. Still, though, there is a lot of time left before the 2018 NFL season really begins.
With that time it's always fun to rank things and put together lists. I mean, who doesn't love a good article ranking players? Over the next few weeks I'll be ranking position groups in the NFC East to see which team comes out on top.
Today we begin with the NFC East quarterbacks, arguably the most scrutinized position group in all of sports.
4. New York Giants QB Eli Manning
Though he is the most accomplished quarterback in this division, Giants QB Eli Manning comes in last in our current rankings. Manning has seen his play decline throughout the years, even being benched in favor of Geno Smith late in 2017.
With a healthy cast of pass catchers and rookie running back Saquon Barkley surrounding him, however, Manning could be poised for improvement in 2018.
The Giants offense might be the best in the league if each game was a 7 on 7 tournament, so it will be interesting to see how Eli Manning performs this season.
3. Washington Redskins QB Alex Smith
The newest starting quarterback in the NFC East is Washington's Alex Smith, and he comes in third in our rankings. Smith has gotten the reputation as a check-down artist throughout his career thus far, but when surrounded by the right talent he can be very effective.
Smith had arguably his best season to date in 2017 with the Kansas City Chiefs, but I just don't see Washington's offense being nearly as dangerous as those Chiefs were a year ago.
To me, Smith is at best a marginal upgrade over former starter Kirk Cousins, and won't bring too much of a difference over the long haul in Washington.
2. Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott
Second on our list is Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. The now third year quarterback is coming off a bit of a "sophomore slump" to end his 2017 campaign, though his first season and a half warrant him our number two spot.
I expect Prescott to look like himself in 2018, especially with the improvements the Cowboys made to their offensive line. Ezekiel Elliott should be available for all 16 games, and the turnover in the receiver group gives some cause for optimism as well.
Prescott is the former Rookie of the Year and has had a good start to his career thus far, but sorry, Cowboys fans, we can all admit Dak Prescott doesn't deserve the top spot as of now.
1. Philadelphia Eagles QB Carson Wentz
The top quarterback in the NFC East right now is Eagles QB Carson Wentz. Wentz was a legitimate MVP candidate in 2017 prior to his injury, and once returning to full health Wentz should be able to impress once again.
The Eagles offense was downright dominant while Wentz was healthy, and though they did win the Super Bowl without him, Wentz brings their productivity to another level.
And with arguably the best supporting cast of the entire division, Carson Wentz is poised for success going forward.
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