With linebacker Anthony Hitchens likely to miss half the season after a knee fracture, the Cowboys are working on solutions. Yesterday, our Sean Martin looked at the increased role veteran Justin Durant should be getting. However, it also appears that young Jaylon Smith will be impacted by Hitchens' absence.
Consider the following reports that came out of the Cowboys' Tuesday practices:
Not sure if this is new news or not, but Jaylon Smth participated in yesterday's walkthrough without a brace on his foot. pic.twitter.com/i9TtZ9acxP
We are all understandably excited at the idea of Jaylon Smith, who we've waited for for over a year, to have a big role in the 2017 defense. Hopefully these developments are based on natural progression and have nothing to do with the increased need, and perhaps a little desperation, following Anthony Hitchens' injury.
Consider the following comment from Stephen Jones today, when asked if Jaylon could be starting now with Hitchens out:
“It could be, but it definitely will cause him to have an accelerated approach to how this year starts for him. So, yes I think it’s going to be more activity, more snaps for him right off the bat.”
The phrase that gives me pause there is “accelerated approach.” It would be easy for the team, and for Jaylon himself, to start pushing the envelope on his recovery given recent developments. Hitchens being out compounds with the possibility that Damien Wilson will be suspended at some point for his assault arrest in July. Plans to ease Smith back into football may be getting altered for the wrong reasons.
The only reason Jaylon should be getting more work is because his body is ready for it. An eager player may not be the best judge, nor coaches who are anxious to win. Hopefully, medical professionals and trainers are acting as everyone's conscience in this and keeping Jaylon on the best path for his long-term future, with absolutely zero consideration for present needs and concerns.
Jaylon Smith could be the best defensive player on our team for the next ten years, every step along the way needs to be with that goal in mind. We've seen players rushed back in the NFL and some disastrous results from that decision. The Cowboys need to avoid that all costs, even if one of them is having to plays guys like Justin Durant, Kyle WIlber, and Mark Nzeocha more early in the season.