The Dallas Cowboys provided a jaw-dropping moment in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, when they decided to write linebacker Jaylon Smith's name down on their draft card.
Why in the world would they draft a linebacker so highly when there's a chance he may have to sit out the entire 2016 season?
If he can fully recover and become the player he was at Notre Dame, then the Cowboys would've drafted a player that is arguably the best defensive player in the entire 2016 NFL Draft.
Can you say draft day steal?
I for one am rooting for Jaylon Smith and I'm personally praying for a full 100% recovery. This goes beyond what he can potentially do on the field for the Dallas Cowboys. To me, it's more about seeing Smith win a battle that is completely out of his control.
I know a little something about facing a battle that is uncontrollable and completely out of your hands. I actually kind of feel a connection to what Jaylon is going through, having faced a similar situation myself.
You see, I was in an accident a little over 12 years ago in which I broke my C2 and C3 vertebrae and ended up being paralyzed from the chest down. So, I know what it's like to go through rehab trying to get the nerves to regenerate themselves and fire up once again.
There is absolutely nothing you can do to physically repair the damage and it takes a huge toll on you mentally, especially for someone like Jaylon Smith who has probably never faced a physical obstacle he couldn't overcome in his entire life.
It looks as if Smith will be able to make a full recovery from his anterior and lateral collateral knee injury, but it's his peroneal nerve that is the major concern. It prevents him from moving his foot from side to side or lifting it up and down. It is commonly referred to as drop foot.
There really is no timetable for when the peroneal nerve may recover, but based on my research I think I can give you a somewhat educated idea.
Nerves regrow at about 1 inch per month after a one month lag time and Jaylon Smith's injury area is approximately 6 inches above the muscle that was paralyzed when the peroneal nerve was damaged. Smith is approximately six months out of surgery and still has at the very least a few months of recovery time ahead of him.
Even though Smith still has a long road of recovery ahead of him, he has been soaking up as much information during the Dallas Cowboys OTA and mini-camp practices. He has also been putting in time in the weight room, but it's probably his attendance in the meeting rooms that have benefited him the most so far.
Jaylon Smith can only do so much because he is still limited to what he can do physically in the weight room and on the practice field, but the mental aspect of the game is something that he is taking very seriously.
In fact, with fellow linebacker Sean Lee also observing these OTA and mini-camp practices, Smith has been in his hip pocket and picking his brain every chance he gets. He has become Lee's second shadow and I can't think of a better mentor for him to learn how to prepare like a professional.
"You have a great group of guys in front of you, "Smith said. "I'm definitely learning a lot from Sean Lee, picking his brain each and every day. But for me, it's just learning the system, getting acclimated to my surroundings. When I'm back out there, it's going to be elite."
Sean Lee is almost like having another coach on the field, but a coach that is still currently playing the game and knows exactly how to prepare when recovering from an injury.
There may not be a better sounding board for Jaylon Smith to have at his disposal other than Sean Lee, and I can't tell you how much of a benefit that may be to Smith's recovery.
As fans, we are all hoping that he can get back on the field sooner rather than later, but it's a process that takes time and can't be rushed.
From what I've learned about Jaylon Smith, I'm absolutely positive that he has the right mental makeup and determination to do everything in his power to get back on the field, but it's an uncontrollable battle that he's facing.
How much are you hoping Jaylon Smith is able to make a full recovery?
Please feel free to use the comment section below to voice your thoughts and opinions. I look forward to discussing this topic with you further.
Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?
It feels like ages ago that the Dallas Cowboys spent the 28th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on Michigan Defensive End Taco Charlton. Perhaps this is a result of the constant distancing fans have made from this unpopular pick, or the corresponding moves the Cowboys have made at DE since drafting Charlton.
These moves include using the franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence after seeing him explode for 14.5 sacks, spending a fourth round pick this year on Kansas' Dorance Armstrong, and seeing Randy Gregory reinstated in time for training camp.
Across the entirety of the Cowboys roster, there will be plenty of "odd men out" that miss the cut down to 53 players. Defensive end remains one of the most cluttered spots on the current 90 man roster however.
Prior to establishing the depth the Cowboys now have up front on defense, they did Taco no favors by starting his career at right defensive end. While Gregory may still be a long way from earning the starting role here, similarly styled players like Armstrong have the edge here over Charlton.
This relegates Charlton to the strong side, where he always projected best out of college. By the time the Cowboys realized this a season ago, they also knew a franchise pass rusher was playing his way into the team's long-term plans.
Lawrence's stellar consistency off the edge reduced Charlton's role in the Cowboys rotation of pass rushers. An ideal spot for the rookie to develop with less pressure on him, Charlton's opportunities to continue playing left end may only be reduced this season.
The first-round pick is capable of kicking inside at defensive tackle, a position the Cowboys could certainly use help at. However, asking Charlton to go through another position shift would only halt the progress that took quite a bit of patience from Dallas to see.
It's far from unheard of for the Cowboys to do this with their young players, but for now Charlton remains a defensive end looking to make his impact. The Cowboys are in much better position now than they were at this time a year ago when it comes to setting expectations for him to do so.
Given everything he showed on tape at Michigan as well as in his pre-draft interviews, Charlton is a player that needs to succeed at the task at hand. When this plan is altered, the 6'6" pass rusher is much less effective -- without even considering any athletic struggles that Charlton has compared to other prototypes at defensive end.
As a unit, the Cowboys defensive line has all the pieces to be very effective this season. Taco Charlton is a piece to this puzzle, a backup left end that must find a way to flourish in this role.
For most former 28th overall picks, doing so would be considered a fall from grace. For the Cowboys, it's simply an example of strong roster building that's forced life to come at Charlton quickly. How he responds with a full season under his belt will make or break the hype this deep Cowboys defensive line has garnered, lead of course by the starter at Charlton's position in DeMarcus Lawrence.
Cowboys DE Randy Gregory Reinstated, Will Join Team for Training Camp
The Dallas Cowboys patience with Defensive End Randy Gregory has paid off. Suspended for the better part of 2016 and all of 2017, Gregory has officially been reinstated to join the team for their 2018 training camp. The projected starter at RDE, Gregory will report to Oxnard with the rest of the team on July 25th.
From here, it will be all hard work for Gregory to reconnect with Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli and get his promising career back on track. The last time Gregory suited up for the Cowboys, he managed to sack Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Carson Wentz in a week 17 win. The Cowboys will be expecting much more of this from a player they've supported through multiple violations of the league's heavily criticized substance abuse policy.
Cowboys pass-rusher Randy Gregory's petition for reinstatement was not opposed, according to lawyer Daniel Moskowitz. He's back. "I've never been more proud of any individual in my life. I'm very excited for Randy and his daughter and the rest of the his family.
Among this support staff for Gregory were a number of teammates that wrote formal letters to the NFL as part of his bid for reinstatement. These last few days of preparation before the Cowboys are together again as a team will surely be uplifted by Gregory's presence.
They say no news is typically good news at this point in the offseason, something the Cowboys have come to realize far too often. Today's news shouldn't be confused with a pleasant surprise however, rather something the Cowboys were committed to in getting another premier pass rusher on the field.
Here is the NFL's official press release on their reinstatement of Randy Gregory:
Cowboys & DeMarcus Lawrence Fail to Reach New Contract
DeMarcus Lawrence will definitely be a Cowboy in 2018, but now the future beyond that remains in question. The Dallas Cowboys and their star defensive end did not agree to a long-term contract by today's deadline for franchise-tagged players.
According to NFL rules, teams had until 4:00 pm EST today to reach contract extensions with free agents who'd been assigned the franchise tag earlier this offseason. Players who did not get new deals will have to play the 2018 season on their one-year franchise tenders.
DeMarcus Lawrence and the Cowboys were unable to work out a long-term contract by today's deadline. Lawrence will play the 2018 season under a one-year franchise tag that will pay him $17.1 million
This does not mean Lawrence will be a free agent in 2019. The two parties can still discuss the contract in the months to come, but the deal cannot be made until after the end of the regular season.
Dallas also has the option of giving DeMarcus a second franchise tag next year. However, that would come at a considerably higher price for a second-straight season.
This year, Lawrence will still make plenty with one of the highest cap hits of any DE in the league. He earned the franchise tag last with 14.5 sacks in a breakout season.
Today's news may not really be a big deal in the long run. As long as Tank wants to stay in Dallas after this, the two sides now have over five months to keep talking and will hopefully agree on a new deal for 2019 and beyond.
There is risk on both sides, of course.
Lawrence's leverage could be less if his productions drops or he gets injured. On the other hand, his position could be even stronger with a second-straight year of strong play.
Now everyone, from the team to player to fans, is in wait-and-see mode until the end of the season.
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