If you're like me, one of the first things you did when the Dallas Cowboys drafted Jaylon Smith was drop your jaw. I mean, how could the Cowboys take someone at 34th overall who very likely won't play a snap this season, and may never take another one again? Once I turned on the tape of him at Notre Dame, that answer became a lot less murky.
Ladies and gentlemen, Jaylon Smith is an absolute star at linebacker. Throughout his college career, he has showed instincts, anticipation, patience, toughness, and knowledge. His tackling mechanics are excellent and he has a great feel for the play. Once he makes his mind up about where the ball is going, his pursuit and athleticism is second to none in this draft class.
Having said all that, one of the more intriguing stat lines that I saw for him, which I'm sure many of you are already aware of, is his lack of interceptions in college. I found it a little troublesome that someone who would've likely been picked in the top 10 didn't tally a single interception, and only three forced fumbles, over a three year span at Notre Dame. How is this possible?
In order to answer this question, I went back and watched his tape from college. I wanted to get a better understanding of his lack of production.
Was it the scheme he played in where he was never put in a good position to make plays? Was it a lack of instincts where he just wasn't putting himself in the right places at the right times? Was it just simply a lack of catching ability where he was in the correct place at the right time, but just couldn't haul the pass in?
In all five of his games from 2015 that I watched, he only had his hands on one semi-catchable ball, and damn near came up with the turnover. In order for him to have landed the catch, he would've had to keep the ball off the ground on a diving attempt, which is obviously much easier said than done. See the play below:
Jaylon has an uncanny ability in the open field. Whether he's tackling, or reading the eyes of the quarterback, he always seems to make great plays. I'd argue another factor that contributed to his lack of turnover production was the fact that he can essentially blanket all threats that he saw in coverage. Quarterbacks rarely threw in his direction and when they did, opposing teams tended to scheme against him.
The clip below is a great example of his coverage ability. You can see that the tight end is supposed to draw Jaylon's coverage up field to allow the receiver to cross his face on the drag and pick up yards. Jaylon's instincts allow him to see the play developing and only allow a small gain. Because of abilities like this, teams tended to throw away from the talented linebacker.
When watching his tape, it's easy to see why Jaylon is such a high prospect. His versatility cannot be understated. He will line up as a defensive back on some downs to play man-to-man coverage, and then on the next play he can line up on the edge as a defensive end. I believe this is the main reason he wasn't able to record an interception.
I'd argue that he was used to bring pressure on almost the same amount of snaps that he dropped back in coverage. Whether he played a linebacker role and blitzed up the middle/on the edge, or put his hand in the dirt, his pass rush skills were called on early and often.
So, Why Not More Interceptions?
I honestly believe that had Jaylon Smith played more of a concrete inside linebacker role at Notre Dame, he would've had much higher interception totals. As I said from the previous section, his defensive coordinator recognized quickly how versatile a player he was, and moved him all over the field, which didn't do him any favors in terms of turnover numbers.
His Role Moving Forward
With Rolando McClain's contract expiring at the end of this season, I see Jaylon lining up as the all-important MIKE linebacker in our base 4-3 front. This is a guy who can fly to the ball and is big enough to take on blockers, allowing Sean Lee to navigate space and make tackles. Smith has a great feel for open space and can read a quarterback's eyes as good as anyone in this draft class.
So, to those who are weary of Jaylon's potential at MIKE linebacker, I'm telling you now that I don't think it should be a concern. His fit in our defense is going to allow him to play comfortably in space, and use his natural instincts to make plays.
Report: Dallas Cowboys to Sign Free Agent Wide Receiver Brice Butler
The Dallas Cowboys look to be making a move at the wide receiver position as they attempt to bring some life to the position. No they aren't trading for Cleveland Browns Wide Receiver Josh Gordon, but bringing back former Wide Receiver Brice Butler.
According to a report from Saad Yousuf from The Athletic, the Dallas Cowboys are set to resign the former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver but first have to release someone from the 53-man roster.
Cowboys officials are in the process of signing wide receiver Brice Butler, multiple sources tell @TheAthleticDFW. The team has to make a roster move to bring Butler onto the 53 and is trying to decide whom to release to make room for Butler before a final decision is made.
Brice Butler was signed in the offseason by the Arizona Cardinals but was released after training camp. It was a surprising move for the Cardinals. They don't have a ton of wide receiver depth aside from future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald.
Butler's caught 73 passes on 133 targets for 1,177 yards and eight touchdowns in his five career. In 36 games with the Dallas Cowboys Brice Butler caught 43 passes on 81 targets for 794 yards and six touchdowns. In his time in Dallas, he averaged 18.5 yards per reception.
He never really got a lot of playing time with the Dallas Cowboys who had Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley and Jason Witten on the team for the duration of his time in Dallas. The Cowboys coaching staff placed a higher premium on Terrance Williams' run blocking than Butler's big play ability.
To the coaching staff's credit, Butler was never a consistent enough player to be relied upon week in and week out. In 2017, his last season in Dallas, Brice Butler was never targeted more than three times a game and he never caught more than two passes a game. Butler, however, only played 24.51% of the Dallas Cowboys' offensive snaps in 2017.
If the Dallas Cowboys do make this move it's at a curious time. Sources tell 247 Sports' Mike Fisher that the Dallas Cowboys have zero interest at the moment in Cleveland Browns Wide Receiver Josh Gordon. You'd think their lack of interest would be because they still like the wide receiver room as it is.
If they do complete the signing of Brice Butler, you'd have to expect that Deonte Thompson would be the wide receiver on the chopping block. They cut him at the end of the preseason and then brought him back during week one.
This signing is unlikely to have an impact on the Dallas Cowboys week two matchup with the New York Giants, but will probably be completed early Monday to get Butler to Frisco to begin preparing for their week three matchup.
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I don't think this is a move that makes a lot of sense for the Dallas Cowboys. They've been down that road before and haven't received the results they wanted. Brice Butler does offer some big play ability, but it was thought that is why they brought in Deonte Thompson and Tavon Austin. Is it possible the Dallas Cowboys are already down on those two players after one game? They wouldn't be bringing Butler back if they didn't have plans for him.
Good or bad, do you think bringing Brice Butler back is the right move for the Dallas Cowboys?
Cowboys, 49ers Are WR Josh Gordon’s Preferred Teams in Trade/Free Agency
It's Sunday morning and the Cleveland Browns are expected to make a questionable decision by tomorrow, which is far from news for a Dallas Cowboys team waiting around for a crucial Sunday Night Football home game tonight. With Cleveland expected to part ways with troubled wide receiver Josh Gordon though, the Cowboys have understandably been linked to Gordon, even more so now with the talented pass catcher stating his own interest in America's Team.
As teams discuss potentially trading for outgoing #Browns WR Josh Gordon, I'm told he's got his eye on two in particular: The #Cowboys and the #49ers.
Before looking into this any further, it's necessary to point out an all-important missing detail. Without any reports of the Cowboys own interest in Gordon, the soon-to-be free agent is simply the latest player to say he'd like to play for the Cowboys - hardly anything new for the Jones.
The Cowboys need for a player like Gordon has never been more evident though. Heavily criticized throughout the offseason for how they handled their wide receivers, the Cowboys passing game was a non-factor in the team's 16-8 week one loss.
Signing or trading for Gordon could do little to fix this, but the risk may also prove worthwhile for Dallas. The Baylor Bears product did put up 1,646 yards in 2013 with minimal talent around him, and has a career 17.3 yards per reception.
His ability to take the top off a defense is something the Cowboys are sorely missing. What they won't miss from not acquiring Gordon is the off-field trouble, taking on a player that missed all of 2015 and 2016 due to suspension.
Last season, Gordon was reinstated for the Browns final five games.
The NFL is, at least cautiously, easing their policy on players suspended for marijuana usage. Look no further than the Cowboys own Randy Gregory to prove this, as Gregory has already become a success story for the league by being with the Cowboys this season.
Whether or not Gregory plays on Sunday night (officially listed as DOUBTFUL) after suffering a concussion in his long-awaited return last week is yet to be determined. So too is Josh Gordon's future as the latest player on his way out of Cleveland.
From @gmfb Weekend: The #Browns plan to release Josh Gordon after he showed up late, injured his hamstring during a photo shoot, and in general completely lost their trust. https://t.co/cX2HGZPBXi
I'm of the belief that Gordon won't last long on the open market, meaning this won't be the latest Cowboys story/non-story to drag through the presses. Any fan looking to pass time between now and kickoff against the Giants could probably find me saying the same about free agent WR Dez Bryant however.
Thanks to Bryant still being a free agent along with former Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey, the team has looked smarter than expected in the long-term on moves like these.
If there's a smart way to bring on Josh Gordon, Dallas should be considering that too.
Is Dak Prescott’s Relationship with Scott Linehan Broken?
As the final whistle sounded last Sunday with the Carolina Panthers coming away victorious over your Dallas Cowboys, it was pretty clear there were a lot of things wrong with the offense. Many pointed to Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan and the play calling. Others to the offensive line. Others to Quarterback Dak Prescott. And others to the wide receivers.
There was plenty of blame to go around in an offensive performance that left Cowboys Nation struggling for answers. Simply put, there wasn't much good from that side of the football in their 16-8 loss.
Well, as this week has gone on in preparation for the New York Giants Sunday night, there have been answers to questions from within the organization that make me, an outsider, feel really awkward about the relationships inside the organization. Particularly on the offensive side of the football.
There was this from Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan responding to Troy Aikman's critique of a lack of creativity in the play calling of Linehan.
"People have their own opinions. It's hard to be super creative when you're having loss-yardage plays, to be honest with you. But I thought we had some really good stuff for the game that we couldn't use. But he's entitled to whatever opinion he has about that. It's our job to go out and show him that we have some stuff that maybe he'll be impressed with."
Scott Linehan - via Jon Machota, Sports Day DFW
Then this from Wide Receiver Allen Hurns.
Cowboys WR Allen Hurns on loss to Carolina: "Statistically people are going to say we didn't play well. If you really break down the game, we created separation. That's what you want to do as a wideout.
With Dak Prescott speaking to the media on Thursday, some interesting nuggets of information came out about the communication that takes place on game day between Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan, Quarterback Coach Kellen Moore, and Quarterback Dak Prescott.
Namely Dak described Kellen Moore as a "mediator" between the quarterback and the offensive coordinator.
“Kellen, I guess you call him the mediator at that point, when I come to the sideline. Me and him talk about what we saw and then he gets on the headset and he’s talking with Linehan. Then he’ll get back to me with what Linehan’s thinking with the plays and stuff that we’re working towards, so it’s been great.”
Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys Quarterback
Count 1310 The Ticket's Bob Sturm as one of many confused by Dak's statement about Moore as the go between.
Thought it was really interesting to day that Dak said he talks to Kellen Moore and QB coach Kellen Moore talks to Linehan. Linehan doesn't talk directly to his QB during the game. I think that is weird.
It's becoming clear that there is a huge disconnect between the play caller and his quarterback and this disconnect is affecting everyone on the offensive side of the ball.
Everyone, after one week, appears to be placing blame on someone else, which is really odd to me. Normally, when a unified group of players is asked a question that may lead to finger-pointing, they don't really answer the question.
Above, you can see that Hurns basically said, it wasn't the wide receivers' fault. Linehan, reacting to Troy Aikman's comments about the lack of creativity in the offense, placed the reason for the lack of creativity on the players. And Dak Prescott appears to allude to a really odd communication structure.
It has me wondering, and I'm sure I'm not the only one, if there is a trust issue with the Dallas Cowboys offensive staff and players.
Trust is a very important aspect of any group of people who work together to meet a common goal. Football is no different. As far as team sports go, the NFL requires a strong sense of trust and commitment to one another to make the intricacies of an NFL offense work.
The coach has to trust that the player he's calling the plays for. If the play caller doesn't trust the players to execute, he's going to be much more conservative than he should be. A play caller who trusts his players will allow them to play and will be aggressive in his game planning and play calling.
The player has to trust that the play caller is putting the player(s) in the best position possible to succeed. If the players don't trust the play caller, they aren't going to buy in to the offensive scheme. If they don't buy in to the offensive scheme then there may not be the necessary effort put in to see the scheme succeed.
From the outside looking in, the relationship between quarterback and play caller seems fractured. It's not a good sign for the relationship of the two men tasked with guiding this offense that there is a mediator involved in their communication. If there is an issue in the relationship that is leading to poor communication, then the Dallas Cowboys leadership structure -- Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones, and Jason Garrett -- need to make a change to better enhance offensive communication.
They aren't going to change quarterbacks at this point in the season. The move they can make that Head Coach Jason Garrett appears unwilling to make, is changing who calls the plays. If the relationship between Linehan and Prescott is such that Kellen Moore needs to act as "mediator," then the time has come to change the play caller. Whether it's Moore who takes the reigns or Garrett who returns to calling plays, the change may need to be made soon to salvage this season.
Trust is a very valuable resource in any organization. It's the reason that Jason Garrett has remained head coach for as long as he has. The ownership trusts him.
The lack of trust that appears to exist between Dak Prescott and Scott Linehan is something that not only hurts their relationship, but the chemistry with the entire offense.
Football may be the greatest team sport in the world. And as such it requires a high level of chemistry . It requires everyone on offense and defense buying into their respective schemes and trusting each other to execute those schemes.
Obviously a win against the Giants would go a long way toward healing whatever wounds exist between Prescott and Linehan. A loss however could potentially deepen a divide between the quarterback and his coordinator.
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