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Could Aldon Smith Offer Depth at Interior Defensive Line for the Cowboys?

The Dallas Cowboys have had an interesting offseason. They’ve watched Byron Jones, Jason Witten, and Jeff Heath walk in free agency. They’ve invested in the defensive tackle and safety positions with veterans on low-risk contracts. The other exciting addition was the signing of Aldon Smith, who is currently serving an indefinite suspension.

Signing Smith has home run potential if he’s able to get reinstated and can return to some semblance of the player he was when he last played for the Oakland Raiders back in 2015.

Aldon Smith was once one of the most feared pass rushers in the NFL. His blend of athleticism and physicality made him incredibly difficult to block and is why the Dallas Cowboys were willing to take a chance on the former All-Pro edge rusher. According to Jay Glazer, Aldon Smith is weighing in at 287 pounds and carrying around very little body fat. At 6-5 287, that’s roughly the same size as J.J. Watt, who has had most of his success as an edge rusher but also lined up as a 4-3 defensive tackle (3-technique) and a 3-4 defensive end (5-technique) for the Houston Texans.

Smith is just a few pounds lighter than the 290 pounds that David Irving played at when he dominated at 3-technique for the Dallas Cowboys.

While Gerald McCoy is likely your week one starter at 3-technique, Smith’s size and ability could offer valuable depth to the position. When the Cowboys go to their third and long rush package, they could deploy Aldon Smith to play along the interior with Gerald McCoy while DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory (or a rookie draft pick) rush from the edges.

That’s a lot of power and agility in the middle of the line for the Dallas Cowboys.

Backing up Gerald McCoy at 3-technique in four-man fronts, the Cowboys have Tyrone Crawford and Trysten Hill. Crawford is coming off a season where he didn’t play very much, and though there’s hope he can return to good health, how his hips hold up moving forward will determine how much he’s able to contribute.

Trysten Hill, on the other hand, was healthy throughout 2019 but didn’t play very much. He had a hard time finding the field throughout his rookie season and, despite a few flashes of promise, couldn’t find consistency in practice or his limited game action to warrant more snaps.

Even if he’s not as quick as he once was, Aldon Smith’s size and strength could help become a force on the interior where he’d be quicker and generally more athletic than guards and centers.

If there was an area where the Cowboys needed to be better in 2019, it was with their interior defensive lines run defense and pass rush. Too often, DeMarcus Lawrence and the departed Robert Quinn faced double and triple teams, and the interior wasn’t able to get to the quarterback to keep the protections honest.

Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe help to provide a boost to the interior of the defensive line, but given Aldon Smith’s size right now, he could find a role there as well.

If the Cowboys can get Smith back, Randy Gregory back, and draft an edge rusher early, there might not be enough snaps on the edge for him to make a significant impact. With his size, the Cowboys should consider using him as a defensive tackle in certain four-man front situations and as a 3-4 defensive end.

The first hurdle is getting Aldon Smith reinstated. If and when the Smith and his representatives can clear that hurdle, the Dallas Cowboys should get creative with how they deploy him. At one point in time, he was an exceptional pass rusher. With a full training camp, Aldon Smith could be a good player once again. Even if some of his physical traits have declined, he’ll still remember how to get after the quarterback. And you can never have enough of those guys.

What do you think?

John Williams

Written by John Williams

Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual, reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.


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  1. Another addict ? Reinstated ? Sure that’s all we needed. Least he should get along with Gregory. Oh he is just addicted to weed no biggie.

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