The Dallas Cowboys 2nd round selection of Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith left most in complete and utter shock.
After being regarded as a potential top 5 pick in the 2016 NFL draft for most of his final collegiate season, Smith tore both the ACL and LCL in his knee during the Fiesta Bowl last New Years Day.
It was a heartbreaking scene. One that could have brought even the most sworn hater of the Fighting Irish to sadness.
But while tearing those ligaments presented Smith with a long enough recovery, it is the nerve damage in that same leg which is creating the biggest obstacle.
Most saw Smith's "drop foot" condition as possibly career ending, and while it still may be, both the Cowboys and Smith are remaining very optimistic.
The Cowboys team physician, Dr. Daniel Cooper, performed the surgery on Jaylon Smith, bringing many around the league to wonder if the Cowboys know more than most about his condition.
Whether Dallas has this increased insight or not is to be determined, but after seeing Smith begin his workouts and rehab with the team over the last month, many around the organization believe Smith is set to return as early as this season.
I think Jalen Smith may end up playing this year. See how it works out but leaning towards him playing
Most expected the Cowboys 2nd round pick to miss at least the entirely of the 2016 season, if not even more time than that. But Jaylon's work ethic and constant rehab efforts are forcing everyone to re-evaluate those projections.
Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith was doing resistance-chord work with athletic trainer Britt Brown during today's rookie minicamp
Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones had originally suggested that Smith would not be placed on the season ending injured reserve list to prepare for the possibility that he is ready to play in December, or during a playoff run.
I, along with most Cowboys fans, questioned Jerry's proclamation as first, considering the false hope he provided us during the Tony Romo collarbone saga at the end of last season.
I would much rather have the truth told to me than be strung along with lies in order to keep my optimism about the team up during a rough stretch.
But the more and more information that comes out about Jaylon Smith, the more I believe that his return in 2016 may be imminent.
Expect Smith to open training camp on the non-football injury (NFI) list, although there is a chance he is placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.
If he is placed on the PUP list he will have a five week window after week six to begin practicing again. If Smith does start practicing by what will then be week 11, the team will then have a 21 day window to decide if they will activate him on the 53-man roster.
Whether they place him on the PUP or NFI list, the Cowboys will be forced to make what could be a tough decision about Smith's 2016 season.
Personally, I don't think he should be rushed back.
Rolando McClain is under contract for this season, and if he and Sean Lee can remain even relatively healthy, the Cowboys should get solid play out of their middle linebackers without Smith having to play a down.
Of course, Jaylon Smith can be a game-changing type of player and if he progresses as quickly as many around the organization believe he will, then he should be given the chance to play.
I would just hate to see the long term health of a potentially great player be jeopardized in favor of immediate impact.
Luckily, the Cowboys are smarter than that, and we should all have faith that if Jaylon Smith does see the field in 2016, it is because he is fully healthy and ready to go.
Cowboys WR Tavon Austin Skipping Surgery, May Return in 2018
A groin injury sustained last week against Jacksonville won't send Tavon Austin to injured reserve, at least for now. The Dallas Cowboys receiver has elected to forego surgery at this time, giving him a chance to return to action in 2018.
There was concern that Austin could land on IR initially following the Jaguars game, but he sought a second opinion this week. It appears that this new information was enough for Tavon and the Cowboys to decide that surgery can wait.
Sounds like WR Tavon Austin will not have surgery at this time after getting a second opinion on his groin injury. He could miss a few weeks, however. #cowboyswire
Austin should miss this Sunday's game with the Washington Redskins. He has been the team's punt returner this season and a useful tool on offense, playing mostly receiver but also lining up the backfield at times.
Despite his limited opportunities, Tavon is tied with Cole Beasley for the team lead with two receiving touchdowns in 2018.
How long Austin will remain out is unknown at this time. After the Washington game, Dallas will have their bye week and then host the Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football.
Both of these are games that the Cowboys, feeling good after a blowout victory over Jacksonville, should be able to win without Austin. But they would certainly like him back for the Week 10 road game with the Philadelphia Eagles.
In Tavon's absence, Cole Beasley will likely field punts. We may see more of Deonte Thompson in the speed routes that Austin ran on offense, though Dallas could also finally see what recently returned Brice Butler has to offer.
With an expiring contract this year, Tavon will likely want to get back soon and trying to improve his stock for the 2019 offseason. Hopefully, he can still have a positive impact on his value and the Cowboys season in the weeks ahead.
Terrance Williams: Details, Impact of 3-Game Suspension
Terrance Williams was already missing games on injured reserve, but now the Dallas Cowboys receivers is going to lose some money as well. Williams was finally hit with a three-game suspension by the NFL, starting immediately, for his public intoxication arrest last May.
Dallas placed Terrance on IR in Week 5 just a day before their game against the Houston Texans. Williams had been struggling with a foot issue since the offseason, which included a surgery that he hadn't fully recovered from.
Many were surprised that Williams wasn't suspended to start the season, given that his arrest occurred several months prior. But when charges were eventually dropped after Terrance took part in some required alcohol education courses, it appeared the league might be letting the issue go.
However, as Cowboys fans know all too well, Roger Goodell's NFL operates its own judicial system.
In Williams' case, the suspension will only result in lost game checks. Players still get paid when on IR, but Terrance will lose that amount of his $3.5 million base salary.
Because he can serve the suspension while injured, Terrance will still be eligible to be recalled from injured reserve in December after sitting the mandatory weeks.
The real issue for Williams now is how this event, and his general fall from grace in the Cowboys offense, will affect him in the next offseason.
Terrance is in just the second season of a four-year, $17 million contract he signed in 2017. If he's released after this year, Dallas would save $2.25 million of his scheduled $4.75 million cap hit in 2019.
Williams' cap hit isn't the issue by itself. That would be a bargain for a significant contributor in your offense, even if he was just the third receiver.
But Terrance appears to have fallen well below that spot on the depth chart. Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, and Michael Gallup are the top three receivers these days, and veteran Deonte Thompson has also been getting looks. Dallas also brought back Brice Butler a few weeks ago, though he hasn't really been worked in yet.
Not only that, but the Cowboys will have the option to recall Noah Brown from IR in just a few more weeks. He was one of their more intriguing young prospects prior to getting hurt.
Dallas could let Terrance come back next year to compete, hopefully with full health and less personal baggage. But after six seasons, they may be ready to move on to players with more room to grow.
For now, though, Terrance Williams is out of action and out some money. We'll see what the future holds.
Report: Austin Heading to IR: Deonte Thompson is the Next Man Up
Tavon Austin's stint with the Dallas Cowboys has been up and down through six games. He's provided some big play ability on the outside, but hasn't really had the running room on jet sweeps that the Dallas Cowboys would have hoped for when they acquired Austin from the Los Angeles Rams during the 2018 NFL Draft.
Now it's being reported by Brandon George from the Dallas Morning News that Austin may be headed to injured reserve for a groin tear suffered in the Dallas Cowboys week six win over the Jaguars.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said WR Tavon Austin will be getting a second opinion on his injured right groin in the next day or so. He didn't discount possibility of him being placed on injured reserve.
Whether Austin goes to injured reserve or not remains to be seen, but we do know that he'll miss week seven and likely won't be able to suit up for a while. Though Austin hasn't been relied upon much, he has been a threat that opposing defenses have had to account for in both the passing and running game. Tavon Austin leaves a bit of a hole.
Enter Deonte Thompson.
Deonte Thompson, who was signed by the Dallas Cowboys this past offseason, hasn't been the same type of rushing threat that Austin has been in his NFL career. Thompson's only carried the ball two times in his career for -5 yards. However, Thompson has some skills that could bode well should the Dallas Cowboys decide to use him in the jet sweep role that Austin is vacating.
He's been a return threat in his NFL career, averaging 24.8 yards per return. He's had returns of 47, 64, and 74 yards. He's also had some good moments running after the catch in his career, though he hasn't gotten many opportunities.
Thompson's a former track athlete and before the 2012 NFL Draft ran a 4.30 40 yard dash. He has the speed and a bit more size than Austin to make some things happen if given the opportunities.
The jet sweep has become an important staple in the Dallas Cowboys offense. Even when they don't hand it off on the sweep, they use it in play action, to set up screens, and even to get the defense thinking about it on direct hand offs to Ezekiel Elliott. They aren't going to want to scrap that part of the playbook just because Austin will be sitting out. Deonte Thompson can be that guy. Much like Marquise Goodwin in San Francisco, Thompson has elite speed.
He's not just football fast. He's fast-fast.
When I was in high school, I played baseball. In the baseball program I was fast. The fastest on the team. That was my game. Infield singles. Stretching doubles to triples. Stealing bases. I was fast. I went out for track my senior season because I thought, "hey I'm fast, let's see what would happen if I ran the 100-meter-dash." I found out really quickly that there is a difference between baseball fast and track fast.
The same applies to football and track. Deonte Thompson is track fast. He's a guy that the Dallas Cowboys need to get the ball to on those jet sweeps to continue to threaten defenses sideline to sideline. When it's working, as we've seen with Lucky Whitehead in the past and Tavon Austin this year, it opens up a lot for the Dallas Cowboys offense.
It's likely that Cole Beasley gets those first jet sweep attempts, and as a trusted veteran for the Dallas Cowboys, he probably should. But, if Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan want to continue to use the jet sweep to the offense's maximum benefit, they need to start showing it with Deonte Thompson. He has the speed to get to the corner and take it to the end zone from any where on the field.
Here's an example of what Thompson can do with the ball in his hands.
109 YARDS TO THE HOUSE!!! Deonte Thompson returns the missed field goal and runs it all the way back for a @ChicagoBears TD! #CHIvsAZ https://t.co/k9IfkZMoIY
With Tavon Austin set to be out -- possibly for the season -- it's time to see what Deonte Thompson can do. The Dallas Cowboys need to get a win here to get above .500 for the first time this season and set themselves up to make a run at the divisional crown. Deonte Thompson's ability with the ball in his hands will give them a good opportunity to do just that.
Star Blog2 weeks ago
If Jason Garrett’s Out, Who’s In? Potential HC Candidates
Star Blog7 days ago
Should the Dallas Cowboys Trade for These 2 Oakland Raiders?
Player News2 weeks ago
Leighton Vander Esch Lands on List of NFL’s Top 10 Rookies
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Did Garrett’s OT Decision Cost Him More Than Just the Game?
Star Blog1 week ago
Is Jason Garrett Losing the Cowboys Locker Room?
Player News5 days ago
Oakland Raiders’ Wide Receiver Amari Cooper On the Trade Block
Dallas Cowboys5 days ago
Report: Jason Garrett “Not Going Anywhere” with Possible Extension Coming Soon
Game Notes1 week ago
Jaylon Smith Looks Healthy, And The NFL Should Be Terrified