2020 has been a rough season for a lot of Cowboys, but none more so than linebacker Jaylon Smith.
Smith was once a top NFL prospect, an athletic freak coveted by teams at the top of the draft. Then, during his final collegiate bowl game, Smith suffered a leg injury that would forever change his career. No one could be sure that he'd ever be the same, so when the Cowboys took a chance on him very early in the second round in 2016, everyone was in shock.
Through two years or so, it looked like Dallas knew something no one else did. Jaylon Smith had a career year in 2018, joining forces with Leighton Vander Esch to form one of the best young linebacker duos in all of football. He then signed a lucrative six year contract with the Cowboys, embedding him in the fabric of America's Team.
The last two seasons, though, have been bad. And at times, really bad. Bad enough that Cowboys Nation is trying to find ways out of that expensive contract this offseason. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, however, has a different view of things.
“We don't have a player out there that doesn't have things that he doesn't want to improve on and can be better…but, boy, I'm glad we got him. He's one of our cornerstones and he'll get better and better and better” – Jerry Jones.
Jones told DallasCowboys.com this week that Jaylon Smith is a cornerstone of this Cowboys team, for now and for the future.
His on field performance would suggest otherwise, though. Smith was a Pro Bowler in 2019, but anyone who watched each week knew that this wasn't indicative of his level of play. Last Sunday against the Steelers, Smith committed two awful penalties that contributed heavily to the team blowing their early lead. And this seemingly lack of football IQ is seen throughout his play.
Jaylon has certainly raked up the raw tackle numbers, but too often he is way out of position and looks lost on the field. Maybe he will get more comfortable in Mike Nolan's system and get out of this funk. But honestly, this looks like a player who used to rely on incredible athleticism to make up for missed reads, and now he doesn't have that athleticism to back him up.