With Leighton Vander Esch back healthy from his neck procedure, the Dallas Cowboys were hoping to have himself along with Jaylon Smith and Sean Lee all healthy for the 2020 season. However, after only one week of the NFL season, the Cowboys linebacker group has been crush by injures. Lee is out until mid-October after having sports hernia surgery, and Leighton Vander Esch is currently on injured reserve with a broken collarbone that he suffered in Week 1.
Now, the lone available member of the aforementioned trio, Smith, is left to hold the unit together until his injured counterparts return. He didn’t get off to the best start in Week 1 vs the Los Angeles Rams. Smith only posted a 29.5 grade according to Pro Football Focus, one of the worst for all starting linebackers.
However, a familiar responsibility just may spark a bounce-back performance for Smith. With Vander Esch sidelined, Smith will once again take over play-calling duties for the defense, something he did for the previous two years when he played the middle linebacker spot, and he seems more than ready to resume that responsibility.
“I’ve been calling plays for the past two years,” Smith said Thursday via Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News. “So, it’s really my comfort zone, just happy to lead the defense. We’ve got to do whatever it takes to win.”
Smith will remain at outside linebacker and veteran Joe Thomas, now in his third season with the team, will start in place of the injured Vander Esch. With a huge game coming up against the Atlanta Falcons today, Smith recognizes that establishing a rhythm and chemistry as a unit is key.
“For one, I love all those guys and really praying for their health to come back stronger,” Smith said. “A linebacker corps, it’s all about chemistry, especially me being out there with another linebacker. We have to get our rhythm together. … Having to play with a couple other guys takes a little time to get our rhythm, so that’s what me and Joe Thomas are working on this week. Just dialing in, locking in everything.”
Smith and the Cowboys defense will definitely have to be locked in going against a high-powered offense like the Falcons. Last week vs the Seattle Seahawks, they had three receivers catch nine passes for over 100 yards. Also, they have Todd Gurley in their backfield who can always be a dangerous weapon when healthy.
Does Smith revive himself from Week 1 and get this Cowboys defense back on track? We’ll be watching.