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Jaylon Smith Practicing Without AFO Brace

A lot of the talk circling the and the is the need for the Cowboys to draft a as insurance to and 's issues.

One of the questions, Sean Lee, will always be a question. When he's on the field, he's as good a linebacker as there is in the NFL. In 2016, he finally got in a near full season and rewarded the Dallas Cowboys with an All-Pro season that led the team to the . Talent has never been the issue with Lee. Keeping him on the field has been.

Jaylon Smith's question isn't his health as much as it is his recovery. The surgery to repair his ACL and MCL that he suffered at the end of his final season at Notre Dame was considered a success. There was a caveat, however, that there was no telling how much functionality would return because of the massive nerve injury that occurred.

Last year, Jaylon Smith actually played football games. No small step. In some games he made some plays and in other games, it was clear that he was still struggling with changing directions and running with receivers and running backs in coverage.

Time is Jaylon's biggest ally and another removed from his injury should only help him get stronger and more confident in his recovering knee.

Lost in all of the hoopla was a beautiful little nugget that Jaylon Smith teased with last week.

Jaylon provided a great look at his training regimen on the first day of team workouts and if you look closely, you'll see with a Clear Eye View that Jaylon Smith isn't wearing a brace, tape, or any other kind of support. On his knee or foot.

Remember that even after Jaylon was playing and practicing without a knee brace, he was still requiring an AFO brace to help with his foot drop.

Oh, how much one offseason can change things.

, now of 247Sports.com, quoted Smith as saying, “I have more power and more flexibility now. And the dropfoot (issue) is fading. Absolutely!” over on Scout.com, and there was this:

“As our colleague Bryan Broaddus has previously noted, it does seem that some of the testing is behind him, that the nerve is regenerating, that the repaired knee is stronger than ever and that more improvement is ahead of him. Smith's 6-2, 245-pound body is about as sculpted as is imaginable. His mind is sculpted, too, the result of his faith and his intellect and his personality and more. He suggests now that more improvement is inevitable, and that includes the medical improvement that is now, to him, simply “a matter of timing.”'

Mike Fisher – 105.3 The Fan and 247Sports.com

There is still a lot of hope around and Cowboys Nation that Jaylon Smith can return to the All-American form that was projecting him as a top-five talent in the . If he's healthy and moving with better lateral movement and agility than he was in 2017, that's a huge step forward for Jaylon Smith and the Dallas Cowboys.

The progression of his knee and his confidence in said knee is going to be a huge determining factor in Dallas' plans to draft a linebacker. If they feel confident that he will be a more functional linebacker in 2018 than he was in 2017, then perhaps they could wait until day two or three to address the linebacker position.

We can't fully know their intentions as we get closer to draft day. How they address the linebacker position in the could give us an excellent indication of how they feel about Jaylon Smith's progression.

What we do know is that Jaylon Smith will never give up working toward being an elite middle linebacker. Let's hope he can realize his dreams. Everyone will be better for it.

John Williams
John Williamshttps://anchor.fm/inside-the-cowboys
Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual, reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could. Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.

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EverybodyTalks

This is great news for Jaylon. I’m glad for him and our LB corps. Still think LB is a high priority, but I believe there was a group “whew” in the room.

John Williams

Yeah, they still need to get some depth in the 3rd or 4th round, but everything seems positive for Jaylon.

Russ_Te

JS had a play last year, don’t recall the game, where he ran about 50 yards chasing down a breakaway WR or RB, and he was closing ground. Still had the brace on. That’s when I knew his speed was back.

I’d really like to see him tried in camp at SS, since he’d be a monster there if it worked. But the team being thin at LB, it’s unlikely. I hope they will work him in to more blitz packages this year / use the speed that way.

John Williams

Straight line wasn’t at all his problem last year or moving in one direction when flowing with the play. But if he had to plant and change directions, it was a struggle. Whether it was the foot not responding or him not having the confidence. Still has to build that change of direction confidence in the knee.

Russ_Te

Draft prediction:
1st / WR
2nd / OL or LB
3rd / OL or LB

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