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Jaylon Smith: Breaking Down His Much Anticipated Return

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Headlines - Star Studded Draft: Could Dallas' 2016 Class Be All-Time Great? 1

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The Dallas Cowboys took a huge risk when they decided to draft Jaylon Smith 34th overall in the 2016 NFL Draft. There were a lot of other players available that could have made more of an immediate impact, but the Cowboys opted to go a different direction by drafting the talented linebacker out of Notre Dame.

Jaylon SmithThey were rolling the dice that he would be able to make a full recovery from the devastating knee injury he suffered in Notre Dame's Bowl game against Ohio State. Luckily, it is looking like the dice won't come up snake eyes, because he should be back to 100% for the 2017 season.

Smith's return to the field has been highly anticipated and has a lot of us anxiously awaiting to see how much he can help improve the Cowboys defense.

I thought that this would be a good time to break down Jaylon Smith's game to take a little bit of a closer look at what he brings to the Cowboys defense, and where he might need to improve.

I studied a lot of Smith's film and decided to use Notre Dame's game against the University of Texas in 2015 for this article, because of all of the different ways he was utilized on defense.

Let's first take a look at some of his weaknesses, because there's not very many.

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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.

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59 Comments
  • BeirutWedding

    But when you say, “100%” you’re still not saying “the nerve is firing” (whatever that means), am I right?

    • Brian Martin

      The nerve in his knee is regenerating or “firing”. That basically means that there won’t be any nerve damage, which was the concern. Smith has also said he his close to returning to his 4.4 speed. Everything is pointing to him making a full recovery by the start of the 2017 season.

  • dallas1966

    Absolutely!!

  • deal with it

    I’m anxious to see the kid make it but knowing The DC’s 2nd round pick “luck” or history (whatever it is) I’m still reserved.Sean Lee was a 2nd rounder & it’s only taken 6 years to get him on the field for a full season.

    • jcobwebs

      But he is SO WORTH IT!!!

      • deal with it

        yep,but Sean Lee is the exception(al) to the rule.

    • Brian Martin

      Hopefully the Cowboys second round draft history is changing for the better. I’m really hoping Jaylon Smith succeeds.

  • Arvelt

    Great article! I am really excited about this kid. He looks fast enough to play safety! You need two legit linebackers in this league to have a good defense. I see the cowboys winning for years to come because of this draft class!!!

    • Brian Martin

      Thanks for reading. It’s always good to get positive feedback. Hopefully the 2017 draft class is just as good as the 2016.

  • Wilson Torres

    listen people jaylon smith is awesome he can cover he’s fast so we have two great linebackers we need a passrusher and a lock down cornerback get rid of carr

    • Brian Martin

      I agree we need a dominant pass rusher. Unfortunately, they don’t grow on trees. They are hard to come by and come at a high price in free agency.

      • Wilson Torres

        brian do you think we should address a defensive end first or a lock down corner

        • Brian Martin

          The Cowboys need to stick to their board. If DE or CB is the top player on their board draft them. But, if a WR or TE is the higher rated player you kind of have to go that direction. Of course, there are tiebreakers where if similar ranked players are there, you go with the position of need.

  • TD4SPORTS

    I would love for Hitchens to excel in the middle and flank him with Smith and Lee

    • Brian Martin

      I think we will likely see Smith starting at MLB, Lee at WLB, and Hitchens at SLB.

      • TD4SPORTS

        Yeah but imagine the speed on the outside if Hitchens could hold down the middle. It would be even better for them to be able to switch up in different looks and that would make our LB group Strong.

        • Brian Martin

          I like the idea of providing different looks with the linebackers, but I don’t know how well Smith would do is a strong side LB. Maybe an obvious passing situations where he could be used as an extra pass rusher.

          • TD4SPORTS

            Yes, that”s it and he could be used like Davis in Carolina and Miller in Denver because we know MarinellI likes Flexibility. I feel throwing him in the middle taking on 300 lb linemen right now opposed to using his quickness against TEs would be a mistake.

          • Brian Martin

            I think we will see Smith play the majority of his snaps at MLB. That’s what they drafted him to do, but that’s doesn’t mean they won’t use him differently in certain situations.

      • Wilson Torres

        we need a reciever

        • Brian Martin

          Wilson, I completely agree with you. They will address this in the off-season.

          • Wilson Torres

            brian i was seeing this kid from usc adoree jackson conerback kick returner do it all kid wow bring him to dallas

          • Brian Martin

            I like him, but there are a lot of other CBs I like better. Fabian Moreau (UCLA) is one of my favorites.

  • Wilson Torres

    cowboys need to get rid of free williams carr

    • Brian Martin

      Terrance Williams and Brandon Carr are both free agents. Doug Free is the only one still under contract.

  • Wilson Torres

    brian tell me the truth do we need brandon carr he can’t cover a pregnant lady get rid of him williams to catches with his body not his hands we need a reciever cornerback get rid of free to he hold to mush and a passrusher

    • Brian Martin

      I would be opposed to bringing Brandon Carr back. I think he gets judged by the $50 million contract he signed. He is reliable and hasn’t missed a game in his entire career.

  • Wilson Torres

    and move byron jones at cornerback and get a safety via free agency andscandrick is always hurt and gets beat alot

    • Brian Martin

      I actually believe that Byron Jones is better at safety. He made a lot of really good plays last season, but unfortunately everybody only remembers the bad ones. He will only continue to get better, especially if they can improve their pass rush.

      • Wilson Torres

        brian i understand he never misses a game but carr gets beat a lot and 1 interseption in 5 years come on we can do better and free he is another guy we need out holding penalties getting beat sack elliott ran a 65 yarder holding free come on forget he has a year left we got collins and cooper

        • Brian Martin

          I don’t disagree about Carr. I believe they will upgrade the CB position either through free agency or the draft. They can do that and still possibly bring back Carr for added depth at an affordable price. The only problem about getting rid of Free is there isn’t anybody to take his spot. Collins is a better OG and Cooper is a free agent. If Chaz Green can remain healthy it might be his job to lose.

      • Wilson Torres

        and scandrick better play better this year comimg up always hurt

        • Brian Martin

          Hopefully 32 can use the off-season and get healthy. I’m not sure he was ever fully healthy the entire year last season.

          • TD4SPORTS

            We have got to upgrade the CB, RT, # 2 Receiver, and DE spots Period to have a chance at a SB.

          • Brian Martin

            It is going to be really interesting to see what the Cowboys do at right tackle. This draft class isn’t the best when it comes to offensive lineman. But, I do agree with you that all of these positions need to be addressed.

          • TD4SPORTS

            I think we should go after an Athletic LT in the draft that no one has high on their board in maybe the 6th round and move him to RT. A hidden gem could be found from a small School or maybe a pure RT that we have scouted early. I always feel Scouting is the most important part of the draft.

          • Brian Martin

            I’m sure they will be doing their due diligence in researching all of these draft prospects. To me, scouting offensive lineman is the hardest of all of the positions.

  • Wilson Torres

    get adoree jackson usc cornerback

    • Brian Martin

      If he is still there in the third round and the Cowboys haven’t added a CB, Jackson would be a good option.

      • Wilson Torres

        alright brian you know the kid from florida ain’t bad either fabian moreau iamgoing to look him up

        • Brian Martin

          I’m not sure which Florida CB you’re talking about, Teez Tabor or Quincy Wilson, but I like them both.

          • Wilson Torres

            brian the cowboys are talking smith as a pass rusher i don’t know maybe sometimes but he’s a solid linebacker we need to address that draft day or free agency we need a reciever for williams and a shut down corner wilson from florida if available

          • Brian Martin

            Using Smith as a pass rusher in certain situations makes sense, but I think he will be the starting MLB. This is a pretty good draft to find a WR to replace Williams. This draft is also deep at CB. I think the Cowboys can definitely find some rookies in this draft class that could start this season.

          • Wilson Torres

            brian martin listen what do you think the boys need to do first in the draft a wideout or a passrusher or a couple of cornerbacks

          • Brian Martin

            I think they need to stick to their draft board and take the best player available. If you start drafting because of needs, then you’re passing up good players and that could end up getting you in trouble.

          • Wilson Torres

            brian this kid charles harris he’s got a lot f quicness and spins wow he’s what we need

          • Brian Martin

            Yeah, he looks like a nice player. I personally like Carl Lawson better.

          • Wilson Torres

            ———- Forwarded message ———-

          • Wilson Torres

            carl LAWSON TO SHORT

          • Brian Martin

            He’s just an inch shorter than Charles Harris

          • Wilson Torres

            brian good evening listen i am a hard core cowboy fan listen we need to get this defense legit allright it’s been a long time one good thing we have we’re young so we have to get another reciever for williams we need a right tackle we need cornerbacks a passrusher unless tapper comes around and lawrence

          • Brian Martin

            I think it’s possible we see an upgrade to all of those positions.

          • Wilson Torres

            brian listen who do you see pick 28 the boys taking let me know

          • Brian Martin

            It’s still way too early to even give an educated guess. Really need to see what they do in free agency first. Positions like CB, DE, WR, TE, and RT will all certainly be in play. Really just about any position except QB and RB.

          • Wilson Torres

            thank you brian i saw your picks for dallas it was good

  • Wilson Torres

    brian good evening what’s up free agency is coming if we still have free we’re in trouble

    • Brian Martin

      The word is he’s contemplating retirement. He’s been serviceable, but they could definitely use an upgrade.

  • Wilson Torres

    brian long time listen i’am hearing that terrall mcclain might not be back wow that will be a tough lost but free one more disaater year

    • Brian Martin

      Terrell McClain seems to be receiving quite a bit of interest in free agency. We will have to wait and see what his market value is, but it looks like it will be unlikely he will return to the Cowboys. Personally, I think I’m okay with that. Cedric Thornton should be able to fill in nicely.

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David Irving Out Again for Cowboys, Does Defense Need Him?

Sean Martin

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David Irving Out Again for Cowboys, Does Defense Need Him?

Dallas Cowboys Defensive Tackle David Irving, once a key member of the team's defense, will not make his return after all against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. For the second straight week, Irving was reportedly trending towards suiting up before being ruled out. The Cowboys haven't missed his unique presence for 13 weeks (playing against the Jaguars and Redskins), including through an ongoing four game win streak that began with a win against these Eagles on the road.

In that road win, veteran Tyrone Crawford recorded a sack and three tackles, while Antwaun Woods added two for a Dallas defense that held Philadelphia to 23 first downs and 71 rushing yards. The Eagles managed to cross the Cowboys' 30-yard line just four times.

There are many scenarios in which the Cowboys could have cut ties with Irving for not being worth the off-field trouble he's caused - beginning the season with a four game suspension. The absolute best case scenario is what they've realized amidst this turnaround, with other defensive linemen taking advantage of the opportunity left behind by Irving.

While it can still be true that Irving would make more splash plays than the likes of Crawford, Woods, Maliek Collins, and Caraun Reid, this defensive tackle group deserves praise for their ability to step in. Pass rush ability is one thing teams can't have enough of, and the Cowboys are missing some with Irving, finding ways to win thanks to the other traits these defenders bring to the table.

Cowboys Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard may effectively be the team's defensive coordinator with an emphasis on the back seven, but DC Rod Marinelli's impact is still felt - particularly up front. Regardless of where they're lined up and deployed, the Cowboys front four is expected to be disruptive on every snap, something this scrappy unit excels at.

Prepared once again to play on the edge this season, Crawford is thriving at his original position of 3T-DT. Crawford has two sacks, nine total tackles, and three other hits on the quarterback over the past four weeks. Leading by example with a relentless spirit on every play, Crawford has meant just as much to the Cowboys defensive ends as Irving could.

In a short period of time, the Cowboys have gone from building up Irving thanks to his transcendent ability to make those around him better to simply -- and importantly -- being better across the defense.

Led by DeMarcus Lawrence as their premier rusher, the Cowboys defensive line is a lot for opposing offenses to contain. The "Hot Boyz" work up front has allowed Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch to play fast and make plays all over the field.

Maliek Collins, battling back from his second broken foot in three years, is proving again he's a patented Marinelli guy. Collins' play speaks for itself when considering if the Nebraska product is best as a 3T or 1T tackle. Wherever he's asked to play, Collins creates penetration with an explosive first step and can finish at the quarterback with an array of power rush moves.

At 7-5 and fighting for their playoff lives, the Cowboys are done making excuses on the 2018 season. Their strides on defense speak for themselves, and with a group that keeps Dallas in every game they'll play, the door remains open for David Irving to earn snaps again when ready.

The Cowboys don't know any better than their play without Irving right now, and as winners of four straight, it's worth questioning if we'll see Irving over the last three weeks of the regular season.

Tell us what you think about "David Irving Out Again for Cowboys, Does Defense Need Him?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!


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QB Dak Prescott Named Cowboys’ Nominee For Walter Payton Man Of The Year Award

Kevin Brady

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3 Reasons Why QB Dak Prescott Will Thrive In 2017 1

As the quarterback of America's Team, Dak Prescott is faced with a level of criticism each week that few athletes have to deal with. He is constantly questioned for his play, and even when things are going well, Prescott must answer his critics. But one area absolutely no one can question Prescott is his leadership, both on and off the field.

Dak Prescott is the perfect role model for children and adults alike. He is constantly doing fantastic work in his communities and making sure he uses his platform for good to his best ability.

This week it was announced Dak Prescott was nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, and will be the Cowboys' candidate in the race.

mike fisher ✭ on Twitter

@Dak Prescott has been announced as the #Cowboys nominee for Walter Payton Man of the Year - for 'commitment to philanthropy and community impact.' DAL past winners of the NFL-wide honor: Staubach, Aikman, Witten. @1053thefan

Of course, Prescott is well-worthy of the honor, and I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up being both a finalist and the recipient of the award this year. As mentioned by Mike Fisher in the above tweet, three Cowboys have won the award previously; Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, and Jason Witten. Each of which is deserving, as is Prescott.

Considering the award is given out for "commitment to philanthropy and community impact," I can't think of many more worthy players around the league than quarterback Dak Prescott. We can see this impact in the locker room and on the field as well, as Prescott was voted a captain in just his sophomore season. The Cowboys clearly respect Prescott, despite some of the flaws in his game, and seem to play hard beside him every week.

Congratulations to Dak Prescott on this nomination.


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Cowboys Aren’t Using Dak Prescott on Play Action Enough

John Williams

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Neutral Perspective: Dak Prescott is NOT a 1-Man Army

The Dallas Cowboys offense has taken a turn for the better over the last five weeks. Five weeks ago, as we’ve discussed a ton, the Cowboys made the move to bring Amari Cooper from the Oakland Raiders for their first round pick. The results have been very encouraging for an offense that is hoping to be a difference maker in the playoffs. They also promoted Marc Colombo to take over for then Offensives Line coach Paul Alexander. Both moves seem to have had positive impacts on the offense as a whole, but most importantly Dak Prescott

One area where the Cowboys offense can improve with Dak as their quarterback is in their use of play action. 

NFL Matchup on ESPN on Twitter

Putting defenders in a run/pass conflict and taking advantage of it using PLAY ACTION can create some big plays for an offense. #GoSaints #Seahawks #FightForEachOther #KeepPounding #OnePride #DallasCowboys #LARams #Colts #FlyEaglesFly #Skol

As you can see from NFL Matchup’s tweet, Dak Prescott is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL when throwing out of play action. The problem is the Cowboys don’t use it nearly enough. 

Dak Prescott only uses play action on 24% of his drop backs this season, which ranks him 15th in the NFL per Pro Football Focus. For reference, the Los Angeles Rams use play action on 37.4% of Jared Goff’s drop backs, which leads the league. Pat Mahomes uses play action 29.5% of the time. 

When the Cowboys use Dak Prescott in play action, his yards per attempt is 9.2, which is 13th in the NFL. When Prescott doesn’t use play action, his yards per attempt is only 6.7, which ranks 26th in the league. That’s a 2.5 yard per attempt difference. Prescott’s passer rating, like a lot of the NFL goes up in play action, but Prescott’s goes up nearly 23 points from 89.9 to 112.7. 

Like we saw on Thursday against the Saints, and have seen now for almost three years, Prescott is excellent in play action. His work on the Ezekiel Elliott screen pass that went for a touchdown last week is exhibit A to his deft ability to use play action. With as good as Dak’s been on play fakes, it’s a shame that Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan doesn’t work it into the offense more. 

Every team that the Cowboys face know that priority one for this offense is establishing the run. They know that Linehan’s goal is to get the ground game going, play keep away from the opposing offense, and play good defense. The problem is the offensive line has had issues protecting Prescott this season. They could use quick play fakes or even feints to get opposing defenses thinking about the run when the Cowboys want to pass. Even if it makes the defensive line hesitate for a split second, it’s an advantage for Dak Prescott and the offense.

The offensive line has hadn’t some issues protecting Dak as he’s the most sacked quarterback in the league and is in the top five of most pressured passers. Scott Linehan needs to scheme to keep opposing defenses off-balance with quicker passes, but can also use play action to create some hesitation by the pass rush.

Teams don’t want Ezekiel Elliott beating them, so if the Cowboys decide to increase their use of play action, it will have a positive effect. Prescott’s shown in his young career that it’s a strength of his. Now Linehan and the Cowboys need to figure out a way to get more out of it.


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