Star Blog Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith Will Wear A Richie Brace In 2017 Published 6 months ago on July 20, 2017 By Brian Martin Share Tweet There are a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings about the Dallas Cowboys second year linebacker Jaylon Smith heading into the 2017 season. It’s understandable considering the lengthy rehab he has had to go through and the expectations a lot of fans have for him this season. But, I thought it was time to put one of those misunderstandings to rest for good. It’s no secret Jaylon Smith has had to go through a lengthy and difficult rehab to recover from his ACL/MCL injury he sustained in his last collegiate game. But, just about everybody has been focused on his nerve regeneration in his knee, and rightfully so. NFL players recover from ACL/MCL injuries all the time, but it’s a rarity a player has to recover from a nerve injury that pretty much left his limb paralyzed. That’s exactly what Jaylon Smith has had to do and his progress is encouraging. Jaylon Smith’s nerve regeneration in his knee has progressed to the point where a lot of fans are hoping that he can be a big contributor on defense in 2017. In order to do that though he has to wear a brace on his left leg in order to help with his “drop foot”, but it’s not the brace many have been reporting. There has been a misunderstanding that Smith will have to wear an AFO (ankle/foot orthoses) on his left leg in order to get on the field, but that simply isn’t factual. Smith will have to wear a brace, but it is a custom-made Richie Brace. The Richie Brace isn’t uncommon in the NFL. It is plastic, bendable, with hinged sides, much like an air-cast used for high ankle sprains. This type of brace will allow him to have much more natural movement than the AFO would. Cowboys’ associate athletic trainer and director of rehabilitation Britt Brown explains further. “I’ve heard some doctors and trainers, who haven’t ever seen Jaylon, say that there’s no way he could play in the NFL with an AFO brace, and their right,” he said. “With the brace he is wearing, Jaylon can take his natural linebacker stance and come off the ball the same way he would without the brace.” Britt Brown would know better than most where Smith is in the recovery process. He has worked daily side-by-side with Smith throughout the recuperation process and is responsible for getting him to the point where you can contribute not only this year, but for years to come. The Richie Brace sounds like the perfect solution to help Smith get back on the field and to what he does best. The Cowboys defense can certainly use his talents, but it might be wise to temper expectations just a little bit considering he’s been out of the game for over a year. Training camp for Jaylon Smith will be just the next steppingstone to his recovery process, but you can bet he will be doing everything within his powers to get back on the field. I for one can’t wait to see what he is able to accomplish, but being a realist I know he still has several hurdles he has to overcome first. How much are you looking forward to seeing Jaylon Smith in action? ADVERTISEMENT Related Topics:Britt BrownInjury UpdateJaylon SmithLinebacker Up Next Dallas Cowboys: Signing Orlando Franklin Should Be A Priority Don't Miss Projecting the Cowboys Statistical Team Leaders for 2017 Brian Martin Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view. Advertisement You may like Cowboys Losing Linebackers Coach Matt Eberflus to Colts RG Zack Martin, DT Maliek Collins Undergo Successful Surgeries After Defying Odds in 2017, LB Jaylon Smith is “Back” at Perfect Time 5 Positives for Cowboys Heading Into the Off-Season Alert: WR Cole Beasley Out Versus Eagles Does Orlando Scandrick’s Placement on IR End His Cowboys Career? 5 Comments Randy Martin I see that there are multiple types of Richie Braces available so don’t know which one he will wear but it does sound encouraging. Brian Martin Who knows, he may not need a brace at all some point this season. Supposedly his nerve is already regenerating to the point where you can lift his big toe and foot a little bit. Randy Martin Which certainly throws shade on that writer/doctor that used to be an NFL team doctor that said any hopes of his nerve firing this long after are pie in the sky. That if they don’t fire in the first 6 months or so it isn’t going to get better. Brian Martin As a quadriplegic, I know all too well how long it may take nerves to start regenerating. As a general rule of thumb, I was told anywhere up to 12 to 18 months for things to start firing and then the amount of regeneration is completely unknown. It could be partial or it could be full recuperation. Smith is starting to look as if he might make a full recovery. That would be fantastic! dallas1966 Jaylon will be a breath of fresh air for the Cowboys defense Star Blog Are the Dallas Cowboys Building a Championship Defense? Published 6 hours ago on January 16, 2018 By Sean Martin Three of the four teams remaining in the NFL playoffs — a win away from the Super Bowl — ranked within the top four defensively in yards per game allowed this season. The other is the defending-champion New England Patriots, who of course were expected to reach yet another AFC Championship game, thanks to Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Somewhere between this field, losing their 2017 hopes at a deep playoff run to injuries, suspensions, and just poor execution at times, are the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys ranked eighth in yards allowed per game at 318.1 this season. On the surface, all this provides hope that typically springs eternal around the league through the offseason. It has been far too long since the Cowboys defense matched the skill level of the team’s offense, but Rod Marinelli’s unit (not exactly by design) outplayed that of Scott Linehan’s at times through this 9-7 campaign. This defensive rebuild in Dallas began with the admission that this group had reached their ceiling in the offseason, as the Cowboys let long-time starters like CB Morris Claiborne, CB Brandon Carr, S Barry Church (now with the Jaguars), and S J.J. Wilcox go in free agency. Dallas Cowboys CB Jourdan Lewis, CB Chidobe Awuzie, S Xavier Woods (AP Photo / Ron Jenkins) For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, looking to turn over an entire secondary in a division featuring Carson Wentz, Eli Manning, and Kirk Cousins as quickly as the Cowboys did was a risky move. Their confidence in hitting on draft picks paid off though. The Cowboys’ bright future is predicated on the likes of CB Chidobe Awuzie, CB Jourdan Lewis, and S Xavier Woods. With two young starters at cornerback, the sky truly is the limit the this Cowboys defense. And they’ll play in support of an offense with more than enough talent to return to form in 2018. As it stands now under Rod Marinelli, the Cowboys defense is built to keep everything in front of them, and get bodies to the football. This coverage-friendly approach could be taken to new heights with Lewis and Awuzie on the outside, along with Anthony Brown finding a home in the slot. All three cornerbacks have excelled at using their speed, length, and technique to get their hands on passes. Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence Of course, games are won in the trenches, where the idea of the Cowboys defensive line ever rising to the level of their offensive line was laughable until recently. Whether it’s with the franchise tag or a long-term extension, sack-artist DeMarcus Lawrence looks to be an all-important member of this entire team moving forward. A healthy Lawrence was a nightmare for opposing right tackles in 2017. He earned a national spotlight each week on his way to the quarterback 14-and-a-half times. Making it look easy at times, Lawrence is a refined rusher with the speed and power to win inside and out. The RDE position remains a sore spot in need of talent as this Cowboys defense looks to take the next step, but there’s hope for the likes of Randy Gregory, Charles Tapper, and Taco Charlton to get the job done, along with veteran starter Tyrone Crawford. With Crawford at RDE for much of 2017, running the ball against the Cowboys front was a tall order. His ability to capture the corner against left tackles came as a pleasant surprise to many, and once in position, the defensive captain chased down plenty of plays. Tyrone Crawford wasn’t the only pleasant surprise on the Dallas Cowboys defensive line this season. Rookie Taco Charlton looked like an entirely different player to close a first year in Dallas that began with completely uninspiring results. Charlton — having the physical traits to play at the next level — was never a question out of Michigan. He may never be a player to take over games for a defense, which the Cowboys couldn’t have expected to find at DE selecting 28th overall, but an improved player at DE and DT could be an incredibly valuable asset for the Cowboys in 2018 and beyond. This leaves the Cowboys linebacker corps, where we find the best example of young potential on the entire defense. Amazingly playing in all 16 games, LB Jaylon Smith is in line to take a massive step forward in year two. Smith closed his season looking enticingly close to the player he was at Notre Dame, an encouraging sign as the Cowboys look to become less dependent on Sean Lee on this side of the ball. Lee and Smith paired together would give the Cowboys a middle-of-the-field presence to rival the best in the league. Both players have exceptional range and awareness to run down plays from sideline to sideline. Anthony Hitchens, an impending free agent, is another valuable piece at LB with his ready ability to play all three positions at a relatively high level. Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee Stefon Diggs racing to the end zone with no time left to send the Vikings to the NFC Championship game will be the lasting image of this past Divisional Round weekend, an offensive play that will live on forever. A closer look at these games and the teams that survived them reveals a collective trust in defenses, a trust the Cowboys could be blissfully close to with their own young defense. The Cowboys are likely losing one of the smarter minds behind their defense in recent years, with Matt Eberflus ticketed for Josh McDaniel’s staff, and are still in need of a secondary coach after not retaining Joe Baker. In a league where better talent typically prevails though, the possibility of the Cowboys building a championship defense for next season and beyond may not be far off. With defenses in Jacksonville and Philadelphia providing the hope that both teams can pull off the impossible and reach the Super Bowl on Sunday, will defensive potential be enough for Dallas to get through this long offseason and start the even longer path back to their first NFC Championship game in 21 seasons? Tell us what you think about “Are the Dallas Cowboys Building a Championship Defense?” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL! ADVERTISEMENT Continue Reading Star Blog Can Rico Gathers Make Cowboys Offense More “Dak-Friendly”? Published 9 hours ago on January 16, 2018 By Brian Martin The Dallas Cowboys unfortunately face all kinds of questions heading into the 2018 offseason. Right now, there are no answers to those questions, which means we’ll just have to sit back and take a wait-and-see approach. But, one question that absolutely has to be answered is how to make the Cowboys offense more Dak Prescott friendly. Offensively, the Dallas Cowboys had an extremely disappointing year in 2017. Suspensions and injuries are the main culprits for the disappointment, but the Dallas Cowboys haven’t really changed things much in the scheme or personnel to help Dak Prescott succeed. The sad truth is, the Dallas Cowboys are still operating as if Tony Romo is the starting quarterback. It’s pretty much the same personnel and scheme, but it really doesn’t suit Prescott. It’s time for that to change. Unfortunately, this isn’t something that will happen overnight. The Cowboys spent years putting together the personnel to help Romo. Just when they thought they had the missing piece — by drafting Ezekiel Elliott, Romo sustained a back injury, pretty much ending his career. Anyway you look at it, the offensive personnel needs to improve in order to make this team more “Dak-friendly”. Enter Tight End Rico Gathers. Dallas Cowboys TE Rico Gathers The Dallas Cowboys have invested two years in Rico Gathers’ development, but with the exception of a few flashes in preseason, they haven’t benefited from the fruits of their labor. The 2018 season should be Gathers’ coming-out party. We all witnessed what the Cowboys offense looks like when they are forced to rely on the passing game. Dak Prescott struggled to find any kind of consistency throwing the ball — with the options he had at his disposal in 2017 — while Ezekiel Elliott served a six-game suspension. Defenses decided to take Prescott’s favorite target out of the equation by bracketing Cole Beasley in coverage. Then, they also devoted extra attention Dez Bryant‘s way, making it difficult to get him the ball. The only other option left really was Jason Witten on simple check downs. And that is what the future Hall of Famer has been reduced to. Jason Witten is no longer the threat he once was. Yes, he is still a reliable target, but his age is starting to catch up to him, which has unfortunately robbed him of some of his athleticism. We will no longer see Witten stretch the field down the seam, or run many routes further than 10 yards. That’s why I think Rico Gathers could be a difference maker in 2018, especially for Dak Prescott. Prescott needs more than an outlet receiver at the TE position. No offense to Jason Witten, but that’s pretty much what he has become at this point in his career. Rico Gathers on the other hand is not only different from Witten, but also provides a different skill set than any other TE on the Cowboys roster. He’s a big target with athleticism, who cannot only move the chains, but stretch the field and break tackles in the open field. Gathers’ sheer size alone creates mismatch problems against smaller defensive backs and linebackers, but his athleticism should allow him to create separation, something which fits into what Prescott needs from his receivers. There is no reason why the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff can’t find a way to incorporate Rico Gathers’ unique skill set into the offense. They may not truly trust him to be an every down player, but that’s not happening anyway, not with Jason Witten on the roster. If it was me, I would have a few packages in the playbook specifically designed for Gathers. I not only think this will help him grow as a player, but help the Cowboys offense become more “Dak-friendly”. Can Rico Gathers make the Cowboys offense more “Dak-friendly”? ADVERTISEMENT Continue Reading Star Blog Months Later, it Seems Jaguars S Barry Church was Right Published 1 day ago on January 15, 2018 By Kevin Brady About five months ago, before the 2017 NFL season had even begun, former Cowboys safety Barry Church made comments which made Cowboys Nation scratch their heads. Now a Jacksonville Jaguar, Church said his current team was more talented than his former, the Dallas Cowboys. At the time, many fans and writers alike laughed off his comments and chalked it up to typical preseason hype. Most people thought Church was crazy for suggesting a 13-3 team had less talent than the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team led by Blake Bortles. Well, five months later, it’s become clear Barry Church was right. Brian Chojnacki on Twitter Jaguars safety Barry Church says he feels this Jags team has more talent than his #Cowboys squad last season. Dallas went 13-3. https://t.co/EcbxfUGsvy This weekend the Jaguars went on the road to Pittsburgh, and came away with a wire-to-wire victory in January. The Jaguars were the more physical team from start to finish, and dominated from the opening kick off. On the road. Against the vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers. Now the Jaguars are preparing to do something the Cowboys haven’t done in two decades: play in a conference championship game. The Jaguars and Cowboys will be linked for the next decade or so due to decisions each made during the 2016 NFL Draft. And while it appeared the Cowboys pushed all the right buttons in 2016, it now looks as if the Jaguars are preparing to compete for AFC supremacy for years to come. With their talented secondary, dominant defense, and physical rushing attack, the Jaguars have built their team in the mold of past champions. The Cowboys have attempted to do some of the same, but it certainly looks as if Barry Church was correct in his preseason assessment of the two rosters. ADVERTISEMENT Continue Reading Sportsbook odds for all Dallas Cowboys games Reader Survey Want to help make Inside The Star better? We’re collecting feedback from our readers about the site. It only takes <2 minutes to complete, and can be done from any device. > Take the survey now Don’t worry, your information will not be shared with anyone but me (Bryson T.). Advertisement Advertisement Enjoy 40% commissions on officially licensed products as a FanPrint affiliate. You can even make your own, fully licensed Cowboys and player designs! Get started here Trending NFL Draft2 days ago The Dallas Cowboys Will Have More Than Enough Trade Ammunition NFL Draft2 weeks ago Pre-Playoff 7-Round Dallas Cowboys Mock Draft Player News1 week ago Should the Cowboys Consider Not Giving Zack Martin an Extension? 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