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Jaylon Smith: Worth the Investment

Matthew Lenix

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Jaylon Smith: Worth the Investment

The 2016 NFL Draft for the Dallas Cowboys is shaping up to be one for the history books. All-Pro Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott, Maliek Collins, Anthony Brown and Kavon Frazier were all found by Vice President of Player Personnel Will McClay. However, the most intriguing and questionable pick, at least at the time was Linebacker Jaylon Smith out of Notre Dame.

Jaylon Smith: Worth the Investment 1

In his final collegiate game against Ohio State in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl, Smith suffered a gruesome and potentially career-ending knee injury tearing both his ACL and MCL. This would change his top 10 draft stock and turned him into one of the biggest question marks entering the NFL. He began a strenuous rehab regimen that would have him squatting over 500 pounds and performing drills to work himself into peak condition just prior to the NFL Draft.

After his name wasn't called in the first round it took about as long as a Super Bowl commercial to hear it in round two. The Cowboys took him with the 34th overall pick and Smith's NFL journey was off and running.

The Cowboys and Jaylon took all the precautions necessary to avoid any risk of further injury as he would sit out his entire first season. When 2017 rolled around he played in all 16 games with 6 starts. Even though he still wasn't quite the player he was coming out of college you could see the flashes of greatness from the physical specimen. He would finish with 81 tackles and set up high expectations in his second year on the field.

2018 saw Smith elevate his game to a level that when the best linebackers in the league are mentioned his name is near the top of the list as he registered 121 tackles, 4 sacks, 4 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, and a touchdown. Truly an amazing accomplishment when you consider just two years prior he was wearing an AFO (Ankle Foot Orthosis) device as he dealt with a condition called drop foot.

Jaylon Smith: Worth the Investment 2

Back in May, Patrik Walker of CBS Sports reported the Cowboys had begun talks with Smith on a long-term contract extension. With the looming deals of Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott, and Amari Cooper dominating the headlines of late those talks seemed to have simmered down, that was until recently. Last Tuesday the organization locked up Smith for the foreseeable future with a five-year 64 million dollar extension that includes 35.5 million in guaranteed money. This deal makes him the third-highest paid inside linebacker in the league behind the Seattle Seahawks Bobby Wagner and New York Jets C.J. Mosley. Not only did they get their starting middle linebacker under contract through 2025 they did so without resetting the market, smart business.

Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones got emotional during the press conference announcing the new deal. He expressed his respect for the journey Smith went through to get to this point.


“He has never complained, he has never wavered, never missed a workout and he has never quit — not one time,” Jones said. “He is admired by his teammates, he’s admired by the people he competes against. His story is one I would have done anything to make sure that it could be a Dallas Cowboys story.”

Smith himself understood the risk the Cowboys took on him in 2016 and what he had to do to live up to it.

"You took a risk, a $4.5 million risk, had I never been able to play again,” Smith said of team owner Jerry Jones and Stephen Jones. “So me understanding that, it was my duty for them to get the return on their investment. They’ve been able to do that. And now I’m fortunate enough to really be a Cowboy for life, which is what I want. I’m thankful to be here, for sure.”

Just weeks prior to his new deal Smith made a profound statement regarding his personal journey and that of the Cowboys in 2019.

“For me, it’s always been about my clear-eye view and embracing each moment I was in. From redshirting, to coming back and playing a little bit and getting better every week, to being dominant and now, on our quest to win the Super Bowl.”

The "Clear Eye View" of Jaylon Smith has been a three-year odyssey that has culminated with him securing his financial future and being recognized as one of the best at his position. The fans love him, the organization loves him and his teammates. He's the classic "right kind of guy" as Head Coach Jason Garrett would put it. What should concern opponents of the Cowboys is he's only 24 years old so this story is only beginning with no end anytime soon.


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Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott Primed for Big Games vs Lions

Matthew Lenix

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Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott Primed for Big Games vs Lions

The Dallas Cowboys were brought back down to earth this past Sunday in their 28-24 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. After dominating the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles, the Cowboys got manhandled in the trenches on both offense and defense. Running Back Dalvin Cook had 183 all-purpose yards (97 rushing, 86 receiving) due to his offensive line opening holes bigger than the state of Texas. All-Pro Ezekiel Elliott, however, was held to just 47 yards on 20 carries because his offensive line got bullied from start to finish.

This coming Sunday, the Cowboys will be looking to bounce back against the Detroit Lions and maintain their position atop the NFC East. The Lions defense is one of the worst in the league vs the run and pass which sets up the Cowboys two biggest offensive stars, Dak Prescott and Elliott to have huge games.

Prescott is currently second in the NFL in passing yards, third in passing touchdowns, and first in QBR. He will get every opportunity to improve on those numbers this Sunday going up against Detroit's 28th ranked passing defense. They've allowed four quarterbacks to pass for over 300 yards, Prescott has three games with such production himself in 2019.

He will be bringing with him a very explosive receiving core. Amari Cooper is currently third in the NFL in receiving yards with 848. He's coming off a game in which he had his second-highest yardage total (147) and tied his highest reception total (11) in any game this season. Michael Gallup has already equaled his reception total and surpassed both his yardage and touchdown totals from his rookie season in 2018. Randall Cobb had his best game by far as a Cowboy with six receptions for 106 yards and a touchdown vs the Vikings.

With Prescott playing at a high level, his receiving core more together than ever, and facing the leagues 30th ranked defense I smell another big game for number 4.


Elliott had his second-worst game of the season vs the Vikings after three consecutive 100-yard performances. The chances of him bouncing back in this game are very high considering the Lions rank 26th vs the run. Seven of the nine teams the Lions have faced have rushed for over 100 yards, including three individual performances over the century mark.

The two-time rushing champion is tied for the second-most games over 100 yards this season with five, trailing only Carolina's Christian McCaffrey who has six. Also, the Cowboys offensive line will be looking to bounce back themselves after the Vikings defensive front took them to the woodshed this past Sunday. I wouldn't at all be surprised if Elliott has one of his biggest performances of the season after such a pedestrian outing last week. Also, having a motivated offensive line blocking for him doesn't hurt either.

The Cowboy's best formula for success is still establishing Elliott early to set up Prescott and the play-action passing game.

With the NFC East still firmly up for grabs, the Cowboys have minimal room for error for this rest of the season. Going up against a defense this bad could be just what the doctor ordered for Prescott and Elliott to dominate on the road. If this were to come to pass, the Cowboys chances at improving to 6-4 this Sunday will be extremely high.


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Dallas Cowboys CB Chidobe Awuzie Becoming a Red Zone Liability?

Brian Martin

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Cowboys CB Chidobe Awuzie Becoming a Redzone Liability?

Dallas Cowboys Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie is arguably as talented as just about any defensive back in the NFL. He still young and has quite a bit he can do to improve his game, but there's no denying his talent. One of the things he may need to work on right now is his awareness and discipline in the red zone.

In back to back games No. 24 has been caught out of position and as a result surrendered points in the end zone. Just this last Sunday he gave up a two point conversion to Minnesota Vikings Tight End Kyle Rudolph. The week prior he gave up a touchdown catch to New York Giants Wide Receiver Cody Latimer.

Does this make him a liability in the red zone?

I know if I've noticed Chidobe Awuzie getting victimized in back to back weeks in the red zone opposing offensive coordinators around the league have done the same. As a result, they're going to test Awuzie to find out if they can have the same kind of success.


Chidobe Awuzie

Dallas Cowboys CB Chidobe Awuzie

If I'm Kris Richard I'm personally going to be working on making sure Chidobe is fully aware he needs to be more disciplined with his play, especially in the red zone. He's been caught out of position in back to back games and that can't be something that continues from here on out.

I'm sure Awuzie would tell you himself this is something he needs to clean up. He takes pride in his abilities and knows he can still improve. Hopefully he can take it to heart and better prepare for what's to come. Whether that means just executing his assignments better or maybe studying a little more film. It's up to him to figure out what he needs to do.

As far as the Dallas Cowboys are concerned though, they may need to start giving him a little more help over the top if this is something that continues. And if worse comes to worse, they can always see if Jourdan Lewis or Anthony Brown can be more consistent. I doubt it would come to that, but it is an option.

I for one am hoping No. 24 will just hunker down and figure out what he needs to do in order to take his game to the next level. If he can do that the Cowboys defense will be much better for it. I don't know about you, but I will be keeping a close eye on him for the rest of the season.

Do you think CB Chidobe Awuzie has become a red zone liability?


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Maliek Collins has a Breakout Opportunity Against the Minnesota Vikings

John Williams

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Cowboys DT's Maliek Collins, Antwaun Woods Primed for Monster Seasons

It's been a quiet 2019 for one of the Dallas Cowboys' preseason breakout candidates, Maliek Collins. Heading into training camp, and then the regular season, Collins was the healthiest he'd been at any point in his previous three seasons. That combined with another year in the NFL, led many to believe that Collins could become a dominant 3-technique defensive tackle for the Dallas Cowboys. Collins has been good, but perhaps not as productive as many might have predicted.

On the year, Maliek Collins has three sacks, which is third for the Dallas Cowboys behind Robert Quinn and DeMarcus Lawrence. Per Pro Football Focus, Collins is tied for 17th in the NFL among interior defensive linemen. Tied for 17th might not sound very good, but when the league leader in sacks among interior defensive linemen has just six, Collins isn't far off from threatening for the league lead. In fact, Maliek Collins is tied with All-Pro Defensive Tackles Fletcher Cox, Chris Jones, and Geno Atkins in sacks.

In total pressures, Collins is tied for eighth in the NFL per Pro Football Focus with 27 along with Quentin Jefferson and Vita Vea.

Though he's not racking up a ton of tackle this season, Collins has been excellent as a pass rusher. On Sunday Night Football against the Minnesota Vikings, he'll have a tremendous opportunity to build on his first-half numbers.


Against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday Night Football, Collins has an enormous opportunity. Among quarterbacks with at least 196 drop backs, Minnesota Vikings Quarterback Kirk Cousins has been under pressure at the fourth highest rate in the NFL. His 40.8% pressure rate is only better than Daniel Jones, Russell Wilson, and Sam Darnold.

Vikings Guard Pat Elflein has allowed five sacks on the year, which is tied for the third most in the NFL this season among interior offensive linemen and his 20 pressures allowed is tied for eighth. When Maliek Collins gets an opportunity to line up across from Elflein, he's going to have a chance to get home.

With teams having to pay so much attention to DeMarcus Lawrence, Robert Quinn, and newcomer Michael Bennett, Collins should be freed up to face more one-on-one blockers.

Collins hasn't had a bad season by any stretch of the imagination, but he hasn't necessarily been the dominant player we thought he could be after his strong preseason. That perception could change when the Dallas Cowboys play the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday Night Football. The opportunity is there for Collins, he just has to seize it.


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