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Can LB Jaylon Smith Have A Bounce Back 2020 Season?

Jaylon Smith’s career has been a rollercoaster.

Originally thought of as a top ten pick in the 2016 draft, a potentially career ending knee injury sent Smith crashing down draft boards. No one knew where Smith would land on draft day, and no one knew what version of Smith they’d be getting for the future if they were to draft him.

The Cowboys took that chance.

Early in the second round Dallas shocked the world by adding Jaylon Smith, a linebacker that would be forced to take a redshirt rookie season due to injury. It seemed crazy at the time, and looked even crazier when Smith actually returned to the field early on in 2017.

He was a shell of himself – playing just as you’d expect someone to play after missing out on football for an entire year with a traumatic leg injury. Would he ever be the same? Would he ever regain his sideline to sideline athleticism? Would he ever even result in a productive linebacker at the NFL level?

In his third season, Jaylon Smith answered each and every critic. He and then-rookie Leighton Vander Esch combined to take the league by storm, creating one of the best linebacker duos in all of football. Their play and energy helped lead Dallas to a second half of the season surge, finishing 10-6 and winning the NFC East.

The hype was sky high entering 2019, but things fell flat quickly for that version of the Cowboys. And for Jaylon Smith.Jaylon Smith: Worth the Investment 2

Despite his Pro Bowl appearance, the fanbase seemed to turn on Smith last season. Mostly due to his poorly-timed celebrations, though his play certainly added fuel to the fire at times. Smith also signed a lucrative contract prior to the 2019 season which locked him up with the Cowboys through 2025, only giving fans more ammo when looking to throw their frustrations about the season toward someone.

He’s far from a bum or a lost cause, of course. Smith is a highly talented and naturally gifted player, with the ability to play traditional MIKE linebacker, be used effectively as a blitzer, and drop into Tampa 2 coverage like few linebackers ever have. He’s immensely gifted, and when it all comes together it looks special.

But how does he get more consistently special? Well, hopefully new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan will have something to say about that. Nolan, who has 25 years of defensive coaching experience under his belt, will play a large role in taking Jaylon Smith from a good player to a great one.

In a world where both he and Vander Esch are healthy together once again, there’s still plenty of reason to feel good about the Cowboys linebacker group.

They are young, they are talented, and they should be hungry to improve on a lackluster 2019 campaign.

As should the entirety of this Dallas Cowboys roster.

What do you think?

Kevin Brady

Written by Kevin Brady

Die-hard Cowboys fan from the Northeast, so you know I am here to defend the 'boys whenever necessary. Began writing for a WordPress Cowboys Blog, and have been with ITS since 2016.


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  1. Recently saw a comment about Smith’s strange running gait. I saw that same thing last year. He does not seem to have very good burst/quickness. Look what happened to him against Packer’s Aaron Jones, and a few others. Ugly!

    With this and LVE’s health concerns and Lee’s injury history and age, time for a back-up plan. Draft or sign a FA LB. Kenneth Murray would fit the bill. High production, with great size, length and speed.

    • I AGREE, now less play 14 point ahead at halftime, then less see if you right. Without a strong defensive frontline it showed in the run game.On all of our championship teams Jerry know that our Linebackers played zone, Rome, and Blitz a lot .we back to that , thank you Jerry. You right in a tight game we will see. I believe with the frontline now it will be a whole lot better , with a fresh D-Line it can only get better

  2. everytime a player gets a lucrative contract they go to crap , they quit playing hard. dez Bryant is an example. big money ruins great players

    • Well said , it did start with Dez . And young promising star coming in year 2016 looking , winning. Seeing the negativity how hard for Dez to get his new deal. With Garrett they thought that was how you do it. NOW it’s a new coaching or no deal on Defense, like Nate say it’s time to eat.i believe Mike nolan will get the best out of him

  3. Y’all crazy as hell jaylon will be fine you think he could play same way with someone lesser then LVE he has to be able to trust u to be in his spot that’s what i saw in jaylon last year that he had to worry about his position and others too he don’t have to do that with LVE

    • So true , now got nothing but sacks an dog up the middle for the run . This as close as you can get to the 1995 team . The defensive coordinator should have a different scheme for different teams an he don’t have three years to figure it out. What ever works at less put us in the top Ten Defense . Jaylon a be fine , Lve got backup , LEE a warrior. Safeties could be better I like . Corners they all hungry to make this team, or another team next Year

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