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Could Dallas Cowboys’ Jaylon Smith be Moving Linebacker Spots?

With a new coaching staff comes a new outlook on the talent that the Dallas Cowboys have on the roster. They won’t see players the same way that the previous regime did and may look to deploy them in a way that might be more fruitful.

Earlier this week, it was hinted that Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie could be moving to safety. Well, now it looks as if another starter from the 2019 defense could find himself in a new role in 2020, Linebacker Jaylon Smith.

Per Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News, Jaylon Smith might be handling a different linebacker spot in Mike Nolan’s defense.

The piece from Gehlken spends 99% of the time talking about Chidobe Awuzie, but drops in a little nugget that is like getting a stray tater tot in your order of Sonic french fries. It’s out of nowhere, and he doesn’t go beyond it being a possibility.

Jaylon Smith has started 16 games at middle linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys each of the last two seasons. Though he made the Pro Bowl in 2019, it was his 2018 season that stood out as he helped to anchor the Cowboys defense. In 2019, he had more tackles but had more sacks in 2018.

Though he’s been good after recovering from the knee injury he suffered in his final collegiate game at Notre Dame, there is still room for improvement.

Jaylon Smith has been at his best when able to attack the line of scrimmage either in run support or as a blitzer. In Mike Nolan’s defensive scheme, they want to be aggressive, sending extra rushers at a high rate. In particular, they’ve talked about having a designated rusher in their 4-3 base.

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Cowboys HC Mike McCarthy says they will have a 4-3 defense with some 3-4 principles like the designated pass rusher concept.

If the move to outside linebacker happens, which would shift Leighton Vander Esch to the middle, Jaylon Smith would make an excellent fifth rusher as an outside linebacker. In their base 4-3, they could line him up outside of DeMarcus Lawrence’s left defensive end spot or move him around to send him through different gaps. It’s a similar role that Bruce Irvin played for the Seattle Seahawks that was very effective during the Legion of Boom era.

As Ghelken points out in his piece about Chidobe Awuzie, though they’ve talked about moving different players around to maximize their strengths, many of these thoughts won’t formalize until the Dallas Cowboys can take the practice field with their new coaching staff.

There will be a lot of interesting conversations about how the Dallas Cowboys will deploy this roster. Because of the new coaching staff, so much of what we’ve known about how the Cowboys play football is about to change.

What we do know is that Mike Nolan wants to play a lot of press-man coverage and blitz a lot. Moving Jaylon Smith to outside linebacker or making him the designated rusher in the scheme will help them to be a more aggressive defense as they utilize his pass-rushing ability. In 2020, we might see the best Jaylon Smith yet.

Ep 30: 2020 NFL Draft Recap with Kevin Turner by Inside The Cowboys

In this episode of Inside The Cowboys, John Williams from is joined by Kevin Turner of the About Them Cowboys Podcast on The Athletic to recap the 2020 NFL Draft.

What do you think?


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. After this year or next chidobe going into a big deal . He should welcome a change to safety , cause it only enhances his resume an value to other teams..If the secondary coach able put him in a nickel package, an keep him fresh I am for it. Some with Jaylon.I worry about going in to the playoffs fresh. It don’t stop there you got four more games to play with injuries . The secondary and Linebacker coaches is in line with what this Defense is all about. Love it

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