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.
BREAKING: Dallas Cowboys Sign Free Agent Safety George Iloka
The Dallas Cowboys have reached a one-year agreement with Safety George Iloka, according to ESPN's Todd Archer. Iloka spent 2018 with the Vikings after six years with the Bengals.
He's started 79 of his 99 career games since being a fifth-round pick by Cincinnati in 2012. Iloka turns 29 years old next week.
The Cowboys have agreed to a one-year deal with safety George Iloka, according to a source. Iloka met with the Cowboys on Friday and was the third safety to meet with the club during the week along with Clayton Geathers and Eric Berry. The Cowboys have... https://t.co/JB5nJLWepc
This isn't the safety that most Cowboys fans wanted. After over a year of pining for Earl Thomas, sights turned to Eric Berry after his free agent visit in Dallas last week.
However, it makes sense that Iloka would be attractive to the Cowboys. At 6'4" and 225 lbs, he fits the physical mold of what Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard likes in his players. He also is younger than Berry and Thomas without the same recent injury issues.
Iloka becomes one of many Boise St. products on Dallas' roster, joining Tyrone Crawford, DeMarcus Lawrence, Leighton Vander Esch, and others. He entered the league with college teammates Crawford and Kellen Moore, the Cowboys' new offensive coordinator, in 2012.
We'll have to wait and see how George Iloka fits into the current mix at safety with Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods. He spent most of 2018 as a backup with Minnesota, but Dallas will likely give him a chance to start.
BREAKING: Cowboys Sign Ex-Packers WR Randall Cobb
According to multiple sources, the Dallas Cowboys have signed former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb to a one-year deal to help bolster their depth at the WR position and potentially become Cole Beasley's replacement.
Cowboys are giving former Packers' WR Randall Cobb a one-year, $5 million deal, per source. https://t.co/8KWFPjSP8T
The Dallas Cowboys met with Randall Cobb earlier this week, but he eventually left Dallas without a contract. He must've had a change of heart or just needed time to ponder the Cowboys offer, but regardless of what transpired in that short time he is now part of America's Team.
During his time with the Packers, Cobb accumulated 470 receptions for 5,524 receiving yards and 41 touchdowns. The eight-year veteran will now be expected to replace some of Cole Beasley's production out of the slot for the Dallas Cowboys.
After years of watching Beasley as the Cowboys slot WR, it will be really interesting to see Randall Cobb in that role. He's not as quick twitched as No. 11, but can be just as dangerous due to his ability to be more of a down the field receiver. He also brings added value in the return game and could compete with Tavon Austin to become the return specialist.
This could mean the Cowboys forgo drafting a wide receiver early in the 2019 NFL Draft, but I wouldn't put it past them. Regardless of what happens, this is an excellent addition.
Welcome to Cowboys Nation Randall Cobb!
REPORT: Dallas Cowboys Re-sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur
L.P. Ladouceur is returning for his 15th season as the Cowboys' long snapper. The veteran free agent was re-signed by Dalals today to a one-year deal.
Thanks to Jason Witten's one-year sabbatical with Monday Night Football, Ladouceur has now been with the Cowboys for more consecutive seasons than any current player. He just turned 38 last week, but Louis-Philippe remains one of the top long snappers in football.
The Cowboys have signed long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur to a one-year deal worth $1.03 million and $90,000 in bonus money, but he will count $735,000 against the cap. This will be Ladouceur's 15th season with the Cowboys, tying Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Mark... https://t.co/2iDsi6RX7e
Retaining Ladouceur is an underrated move for the Cowboys given their situation at kicker.
Brett Maher was only 80% accurate overall on field goals last year. The team could be considering an upgrade in free agency.
Whether they bring Maher back or try someone new, having a long snapper with Ladouceur's performance perfection will make things much easier for them.
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