It’s been a long and winding path for Dallas Cowboys edge rusher Aldon Smith to get back to the NFL. After a five-year absence from the league, the once-feared pass-rusher made his return on Sunday night with the Dallas Cowboys. After his performance against the Los Angeles Rams, it’s safe to say that Aldon Smith is back.
In his debut on Sunday Night Football, Smith racked up six total tackles and his first sack since November 11, 2015, with the Oakland Raiders.
It was a huge play at an important time in the game. With the Rams up three and facing 3rd and 10 just outside of field goal range, the Cowboys needed to come up with a stop. Aldon Smith provided.
Smith was one of the Cowboys’ best players on defense on Sunday, regularly putting pressure on Rams’ quarterback Jared Goff and making things difficult in the running game. Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan lined Smith up at several spots along the defensive front to take advantage of his power and athleticism. Per Pro Football Focus, Aldon Smith played 54 snaps for the Cowboys defense. Only six players played more snaps than Smith. Five of them were defensive backs and the other one was linebacker Jaylon Smith.
Among edge rushers, Aldon Smith finished tied for first with six tackles and five stops per Pro Football Focus. A stop, per PFF, is a play that constitutes a loss for the defense. For example, if it’s 3rd and 5 and the defender makes the tackle after a four-yard gain but prevents the first down, that’s a stop.
Aldon Smith’s ability to disrupt both the run and pass game from multiple positions is going to be incredibly valuable this season. Especially as the Cowboys have thinned out at linebacker in the wake of the Leighton Vander Esch injury, Smith’s ability to play SAM linebacker in base packages will help offset some of the depth issues at linebacker.
You couldn’t ask for a whole lot more from a player making his return to the NFL after such a long layoff. Any thoughts that Aldon Smith might need time to reorient himself to the NFL game should be out the window this point. He’s ready to play and ready to be a game-changer.