With football officially back it's probably time for us to start looking at the Dallas Cowboys on a week to week basis. With that in mind I thought I'd share with all of you which players could end up being the Cowboys X-factor each week on both offense and defense. Yesterday I predicted Tony Pollard as the offensive X-factor, but today we will flip things around to the defensive side of the ball.
As things stand right now, we really don't know too terribly much about the Dallas Cowboys defense under new Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan. We've heard rumors he will run a hybrid 4-3/3-4 defensive scheme, but that creates even more unknown. With that in mind it makes predicting which player will be the X-factor this week a little more difficult.
After quite a bit of thought, I decided to go with Linebacker Jaylon Smith as the Cowboys defensive X-factor in Week 1 against the Los Angeles Rams. No. 54 will be moving from the middle to the weak side LB position this season, which is where he shined during his days with the Fighting Irish at Notre Dame.
I'm personally expecting big things from Jaylon Smith this season. His ability to chase down ball carriers from sideline to sideline, dropping into coverage, and blitzing are going to make him a versatile weapon in Mike Nolan's hybrid defensive scheme. I believe he's going to become one of those players that strike fear in opposing offensive coordinators around the league.
I won't be in the least bit surprised to see Jaylon Smith making plays all over the field this Sunday against the Rams. He has as talented of a defensive line playing in front of him than he ever has at any point in his professional career. That alone should free him up to wreak havoc on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
The return of Leighton Vander Esch will also help No. 54 take his game to an entirely different level as well. These two playing side-by-side once again should give the Cowboys defense one of the best LB duos in the entire league. I think the position switch will help both of them and in turn improve the overall defensive play.
Like I said earlier, I'm expecting big things from Jaylon Smith this season and I believe it will start this week against the Los Angeles Rams. That's why I'm predicting him to be the Cowboys X-factor this week. Don't be surprised if you see his patented swipe celebration used early and often Sunday.