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In Season for Youth, Cowboys Must Make Tough Choice on Jaylon Smith

Sean Martin

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In Season For Youth, Cowboys Must Make Tough Decision On Jaylon Smith 1

The Dallas Cowboys are in the position they are on defense, losing consecutive games by allowing a combined 70 points to the Rams and Packers at home, for a ton of reasons. If Aaron Rodgers is still in your nightmares this morning, the horrifying image of Davante Adams stretching over Jourdan Lewis to win the game is probably at the forefront of your blame on Dallas' young defense. In a season that was going to be all about the youth Rod Marinelli has on his side of the ball though, an unexpected hindering force has been 2016 second round pick Jaylon Smith.

An amazing story of perseverance and medical achievement, Jaylon Smith isn't just not helping the Cowboys at MIKE linebacker right now - he is hurting this defense with the amount of snaps he's seeing despite ineffectiveness against the run and pass.

Jaylon Smith Vs Packers - Streamable

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The reason the Cowboys lack any depth on defense is largely due to the risks they've taken in the draft to quickly fix weaknesses at all three levels here. The Jaylon Smith pick itself remains a risk that's yet to pay off, as he is unfortunately a fraction of the player he was at Notre Dame.

When Smith starred for the Fighting Irish, scouts everywhere could watch his tape and agree on the 6'2", 233-pound beast's status as a top-10 prospect. This was thanks to his constant presence defending the run from sideline to sideline, dropping well against the pass, and pressuring the quarterback from the edge.

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With a needed bye week prior to their week seven game at the 49ers, the Cowboys should be in position to make the right decision and start a healthy Sean Lee alongside Anthony Hitchens moving forward. Appearing in his first game of the season on Sunday, Hitchens saw 50 snaps while Jaylon played just 33.

If grading each and every play in which this Cowboys defense lined up against Aaron Rodgers, CB Jourdan Lewis and the likes of his teammates in the secondary, such as safeties Xavier Woods, Byron Jones, and Chidobe Awuzie; actually inspire hope that this unit could come together sooner rather than later.

When objectively watching Jaylon Smith, with the liability he's created on nearly every down by failing to play through contact and hold the point of attack, the Cowboys are seeing a player that is costing them yards - and games.

Lack of continuity at the linebacker position does nothing to support an already weak defensive line in Dallas, as the strength of this front four is being lessened by these LBs. Especially with David Irving back in the mix, the Cowboys' interior push at DT and overall ability to play the run up front should be their strength in the front seven.

In Season For Youth, Cowboys Must Make Tough Decision On Jaylon Smith

Dallas Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith

Instead, playing in a defense where gap integrity is everything, Jaylon Smith has struggled every time he's in position to finish off a play with some physicality.

Not taking on blockers in the hole and disengaging with his normally active hands, Smith has also lacked the playing strength in his upper body to handle action at the NFL level so far.

All of this of course stems from Smith's knee injury, where a partially regenerated nerve continues to hold him back.

He will still have a chance to become a dominant defensive player in this league, even if he's not the exact Jaylon who struck fear in opponents in college.

In Season For Youth, Cowboys Must Make Tough Choice On Jaylon Smith

It is a hard sell, but there is a lot to be excited about for the Dallas Cowboys defense.

Young players are coming together in the secondary as expected, and overall health at cornerback and safety is improving ahead of the bye week.

If the goal for Marinelli's defense is to compete this season and not hold the Cowboys' elite offense back, they'll improve greatly with Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens gaining familiarity together at WILL and MIKE linebacker, respectively. Jaylon Smith may be able to find a spot in the rotation at middle linebacker too, but it should not be until opposing offenses can't exploit him down after down.

With some in Cowboys Nation already saying that this isn't the year for America's Team, they just might be right about #54, at least.

Tell us what you think about "In Season for Youth, Cowboys Must Make Tough Choice on Jaylon Smith" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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33 Comments
  • Saul molina

    It sounds like jaylen Smith is getting a lot of the blame and they keep talking about a young defense Orlando scandrick isn’t a rookie and neither is Anthony brown and they are the main problem and then there is are linebackers smh the only bright spot is the defensive line

    • https://InsideTheStar.com Sean Martin

      I think the bright spot has been the secondary actually, Scandrick has played well and Lewis is proving he has CB1 potential – which will help Brown as more of a natural second guy. Thank you for reading, Saul!

      • Saul molina

        Sorry it I disagree with scandrick playing well he has been our worst corner and brown should have progressed they try to put the excuse oh he is young so is Lewis and he has shown up

  • Saul molina

    And another thing I was kind of hard on my boy dak cuz I expect a lot from him cuz I know what he can do but he played really good

    • https://InsideTheStar.com Sean Martin

      Dak is far from the problem here, he’s the main reason for hope that this can get fixed quickly.

      • Saul molina

        I’ll agree as of this passed game he played his ass off it was his best game he had been struggling but he came through most of the defense is our problem

  • Wayne Young

    Completely agree with this. If you just watch Jaylon Smith and nobody else on defense, you can clearly see that he is unsure of himself while out there and has been out of place numerous times. He’s had opportunities to stop the RB for limited yards or no gains and he’s missed tackles entirely. In pass coverage he’s repeatedly getting beat and usually it’s just his guy blowing right by him. He’s shown flashes of what he can and hopefully will become, but right now he needs more time to develop and needs his snaps reduced. I think next year he’ll be more impactful with all of the experience he’s gained this year alone and hopefully he can get stronger in the offseason. And everyone keeps complaining about the secondary but for a bunch of rookies they’ve actually done quite well. Just like with Jaylon, they just need time to develop. They will be better than what they had with Mo, Carr, and Wilcox. People just need to be patient.

    • https://InsideTheStar.com Sean Martin

      Wayne, excellent thoughts here. Thank you for reading. Next year could very well be the year for Jaylon, and it is significant that they’ve already gotten him on the field this season. I also agree that the secondary will hit on their full potential.

    • Tyler Vieira

      Bunch of haters foreal expecting so much out of a player that just came back from a major injury. You people know that he is leading the team in tackles. this his first year playing with pros he wasnt even supposed to be tha starter this season. the best player on the team when hes on the field in my eyes is sean lee and he has been injured and so has hitchens. Jaylon Smith was our second round pick and this is his second year on the team give him a year or 2 and he will be one of our best players

  • Corey

    DE Taco Charlton hasn’t been the pass rusher they expected him to be either. They were talking about sitting him in favor of DE Charles Tapper, but with Tapper now hurt it looks like Charlton is it. I like this kid, and hopefully he will start to come around, but as far as this season, I’m afraid it is a lost season. Zeke is distracted by this suspension b.s. you can see it the way he has run lately. He can’t help but not be distracted you know it weighs on his mind. The problem is not only LB Jaylen Smith hurting this team there are a number of players not performing, and then there is the mess with all of this protest crap. The year is a total loss for me.

    • joe conery

      on point on Charlton.
      If Zeke wasn’t hit in the backfield so often, I’d say it’s distraction, but he’s looking at multiple defenders in the backfield these days. It’s like Demarco Murray before we got the good O line.

      • Corey

        Very true you do have a point. They need to settle the OG position

        • https://InsideTheStar.com Sean Martin

          I believe they like Chaz Green as the backup OT, which is why we’re not seeing him risk injury and start at LG over Cooper, who is hurting this running game. Thank you guys for reading!

  • John Mcgilvery

    The kid is good. Just look at his tape from ND. He was as instinctive and ferocious as any linebacker I’ve ever seen from sideline to sideline. But having him play this much is good and bad. Good because he gets to see and feel what an NFL ass kicking feels like and learn what to do to try to prevent that from happening under tutelage from Sean Lee. Bad because he’s gonna take a lot of heat for not playing well despite just coming off of a major reconstructive surgery and rehabilitation. I say give him a break.

    The Cowboys were in one of the worst positions to be in for the last draft- 1st overall seed and get knocked out early. So with that you can’t expect plug and play rookies like Fournette. Probably not this season but next season all theses youngsters will be ready. Chido, Lewis, Taco, and Jaylen Smith.

    • https://InsideTheStar.com Sean Martin

      John, thank you so much for reading. Your thoughts here on Jaylon Smith the football player are spot on. What makes this so tough, as I wrote in the title, is that the team is indeed committed to a lot of young guys right now and its tough not including him in the mix. He’s simply not ready but will have a chance to hit that potential very soon, we hope.

  • https://InsideTheStar.com/ Bryson Treece

    I’ve seen Jaylon’s struggles, just like you, but I also see Hitchens on that injury report. Had he remained healthy, we wouldn’t have seen so much of Jaylon already, and now that Hitch is back, I expect to see him consistently have more snaps than Jaylon. Lack of depth at the position has been the primary reason we’ve seen so much of Smith, and that’s trying to get better now. Less pressure on Smith will be good, for him and the team.

  • midair

    I am tired of all the excuses. The defense is not very good and will not be very good for awhile. Can’t scheme for inferior play.

    • https://InsideTheStar.com Sean Martin

      They’re playing a ton of young guys, need to give them a shot.

  • billy jack

    this was a waste of a pick. How do you pick a guy with the second pick who had injury like that. they could of gotten in the fourth round. cowboys act like they had pick to waste what a stupid move

    • https://InsideTheStar.com Sean Martin

      There is more reason than ever to think that the pick will pay off, but it is hard to disagree that it is still currently not a waste. Getting him on the field was critical. We’ve seen Jaylon Smith play football now. That mythical part of this if you will is over with, now its time to evaluate his poor play and make a decision.

  • Anthony Ceniccola

    this is basically a rookie year for JS, and id bet that his knee is on his mind every time he makes a cut or move towards a play or tackle. i agree that after this experience and whatever he progresses through within this year (hopefully with no setbacks) then his talents will hopefully reemerge next season. i dont think i can give up on him or his high ceiling, just taking the realistic approach to his story and eventual full circle to recovery.

    • https://InsideTheStar.com Sean Martin

      Very well said Anthony, I agree completely. Thank you for reading and responding!

  • joe conery

    Dak’s and Zeke’s problem has largely been the gameplan.
    When there’s 7-8 on the line eyeing Zeke, he’s not going to gain yards.
    You need to pass. We’re trying to still force the run on this situation eg on 1st downs and we’re getting behind the sticks. We need to adjust and let our pass set up our run right now.

    We finally started running Dez on my slants and posts this week and that showed dividends…You’ve got to do more than just run him up the sideline for a jump ball.

    Passing the Witten on deeper routes was better too as he just doesn’t have the run after the catch stuff anymore. Same with Beasley.

    When we’re spying a guy like Rogers, I don’t know why we didn’t put in an extra safety and use him. How many times does Rogers have to outrun out lineman and LBs before we figure out that our spy needs more speed. There was no need to worry about a running play up the middle.

  • joe conery

    Also I’ve seen way too much of Dak as strictly a dropback passer…Stop!
    We don’t need to use him like RGIII, but we need to roll him out a bit more. We need to have the threat of him. He’ll open the gaps for zeke, witten and beasley….The finally did that on the TD play.

    • E Deplorabus Unum

      Problem is how can you gameplan when the other team knows your guy can only pass when rolling out? You effectively take away half of the field and routes when he rolls out. I agree he performs better there, but what a liability as opposed to a pocket passer. Roll right and the defense just has to defend 2/3 of the field…

  • Tyler

    Another problem is jaylon smith played olb in college once we get lee back we can move Jaylon back to olb

    • https://InsideTheStar.com Sean Martin

      He played plenty of MIKE at Notre Dame.

      • Tyler

        But with him being slow and Lee at MIKE They should put Smith at Olb where he doesn’t have to defend the pass as much and can read more plays

  • John Arcona

    You guys are missing the big picture here. Smith is missing alot of gap protection and his versatility is not what it once was. Besides that the bigger picture is our safety he’s he needs to go. He has to go back to his original spot on the team and Xavier needs to come in. On that last touchdown against Green Bay to Davante Adams there was no over the top helped by Heath whatsoever against all rookie and Rogers did exactly what Rogers is supposed to do. On the scramble Will Rogers ran for 20-something yards on third down towards the end of the game where was Heath he was again not in the picture and no where to be found on that side of the field in his coverage. We did a poor job as a team in the offseason addressing our concerns. Our cornerbacks will be fine they’re still developing but Scandrick needs to step up and Anthony brownies to show us what Anthony Brown did towards last year’s end of season. Until then we don’t fix these issues we will not go no better than 6 and 10 maybe 7 and 9.

  • golfhacker

    What is the love affair with Scandrick all about? Scandrick is mediocre, nothing more, nothing less. Heath may as well play without arms.

  • Andre Wilson

    I blame the coaching staffs for alot of the team’s struggles. The DC doesn’t bring enough pressure and the Tampa 2 doesn’t work with the roster we have and the OC doesn’t understand clock management or how to utilize Dez

  • Adam Mwakikoti

    Blaming Jaylen?!? SHIT “article”

  • EverybodyTalks

    It seems that Dallas forgot it’s plan to bring JS along slowly. Plans change when you lose Hitchens and Lee. Now that they both are returning, I think Dallas will go back to their original plan of gradually bringing Jaylon into the line-up. This is not the year of Jaylon or Taco..2018 and 2019 are more realistic. They are rookies this year. It really is that simple. If anyone needs more reps, it’s Taco. If anyone needs less reps it’s Jaylon. He isn’t 100%, but was getting 60/70 plays ~ way to many for anyone. Footnote based on some earlier comments —IMHO ~ The 2 best CBs are the rookies ~ Xavier Woods and Jourdan Lewis. Still, I think stopping the run is the main problem. We need the front seven nailing that down, like last year.

Star Blog

Time to see What Darius Jackson can do as Zeke’s Backup?

Brian Martin

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Will RB Darius Jackson Stick With Cowboys Second Time Around?

I hate to say it because I really like Rod Smith, but I think it may be time for the Dallas Cowboys to reevaluate the running back position as it pertains to Ezekiel Elliott's primary backup. Smith just hasn't been good this year, which is why I think it may be time to see what Darius Jackson can do if given the opportunity.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting the Dallas Cowboys move on from Rod Smith or demote him right now, but I would promote Darius Jackson from the practice squad to the active roster as insurance in case something were to happen to Zeke. It just seems the right time to make that move after #21's injury scare Sunday afternoon against the Philadelphia Eagles.

You may have forgotten, but Ezekiel Elliott had to spend some time in the medical tent Sunday against the Eagles. He was luckily able to return to the game not long after, but it did shine a spotlight on Rod Smith and the lack of depth behind him.

Despite how much I like Rod Smith, and I do, he just hasn't been the same player this season as he was last year as Zeke's fill-in. He is just not running with any kind of authority and has been too apt to run east and west instead of north and south. I think it's one of the reasons why the Cowboys have continued to give Zeke such a heavy workload, despite him being banged up.

Rod Smith

Dallas Cowboys RB Rod Smith

Now, Rod Smith did look a little better against the Eagles, but I still believe it would be wise for the Cowboys to promote Darius Jackson to the active roster. Having more depth at such a physically demanding position is just smart football.

With the Dallas Cowboys playoff spot all but secured, it might be time to start thinking about lightening Ezekiel Elliott's workload just a little bit. Whether it's Rod Smith or Darius Jackson, the Cowboys have to find someone who can step in and be productive.

Rod Smith has had his opportunities this year, but hasn't really been able to capitalize like we believed he could. It might be time to turn to Darius Jackson, a fan favorite, who unfortunately just hasn't been able to prove what he can do as of yet in a meaningful game. I think it's time we change that.

As much as I like Rod Smith, I might like Darius Jackson just a little bit more. I think he is kind of like a poor man's Ezekiel Elliott. He is just as athletically gifted and can be a threat as both a runner and a receiver out of the backfield. He just needs the opportunity to prove it.

There's really no way of knowing if I'm right or wrong about this, but I believe he is worthy of a roster spot on game day if nothing else. I'd rather have him and not need him then need him and not have him.

Do you think it's time to see what Darius Jackson can do?



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Cowboys Lassoing NFC East Title as NFC Dark Horse

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Cowboys Lassoing NFC East Title as NFC Dark Horse

Well don’t look now but the Dallas Cowboys are in control of their division and anything short of a catastrophic collapse will see them hosting the first round of the playoffs. Dallas strengthened their grip on the NFC East by knocking off a divisional rival and the reigning Super Bowl champions with a 29-23 overtime win over the Eagles.

Those who have a favorite online sportsbook and wagered on the Cowboys were ecstatic to see Dak Prescott hit Amari Cooper for a 15-yard touchdown pass in overtime, thus covering the 3 ½ point impost that oddsmakers hung on Dallas.

The Cowboys have now won five consecutive games, with three of those over divisional opponents Philadelphia (twice) and Washington. But before we celebrate, we must consider that there's still a mathematical possibility of either Philadelphia or Washington stealing the division crown away from the Cowboys.

The Giants' only hope is an outside shot at a wildcard berth if they win outright but they've been eliminated from contending for a division title due to their 1-4 record against NFC East teams.

Essentially, all the Cowboys must do is win one of their three remaining games in order to celebrate a division crown. If Philadelphia or Washington loses any of their three games they will be out due to tie breakers that go in the Cowboys’ favor.

As of this moment, the Redskins are a disaster with no one under center to captain their rudderless ship, and the Eagles must defeat the Rams in LA, which would be considered a stunning upset seeing as any reputable online sportsbook is offering the Rams as 9 ½ point favorites as of this writing; then they must win at home against Houston and on the road against the Redskins.

Of course, the Cowboys are counting only on themselves to reel in the division title and with games at Indianapolis, home against the Bucs, and wrapping their season in New Jersey against the Giants, at least one win seems likely.

The addition of Amari Cooper to the Dallas offensive arsenal has been a game-changer as the former Oakland Raider hauled in 10 of 13 targets for 217 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner last Sunday against Philadelphia. He was the top-tier receiver Prescott had been lacking and his presence on the field improves both the passing game and running game by virtue of his dynamic playmaking abilities. Ezekiel Elliott has eclipsed the century mark in rushing yards in four of the six games since Cooper has been on the Cowboys roster.

Furthermore, Dallas has averaged 24.4 points per game over their last five wins with Cooper in the lineup, which is more than five points improved from where they were prior to their winning streak without him in a Dallas uniform.

In addition, Prescott has morphed from a game manager at 202 passing yards per game to a game breaker as evidenced by his 285.7 passing yard average in six games with his new target at his disposal.

Ultimately, the Cowboys will be tasked with turning all of this good mojo into a deep run into the postseason. We can now confidently say that there is one other team to consider besides the Rams, Bears, and Saints as this year’s NFC entrant into the Super Bowl. However, Dak Prescott will need to eliminate turnovers and interceptions if Dallas is truly going to contend against the powerhouses they will face in the playoffs.

Last Sunday, Prescott caught fire in the fourth quarter and ended with 455 yards passing, connecting on 42 of 54 passes with three touchdowns, but his two interceptions were converted into nine points by Philadelphia. As we move forward, Prescott will need to lead right from the get-go and understand that one poor decision can cost his team what is now a realistic shot at a championship season.



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Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: Sí, Amari Cooper Lo Valió

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys' Revenge Against Atlanta Hinges on These 3 Key Matchups 1

Cuando los Dallas Cowboys sorprendieron a la NFL mandando una selección de primera ronda por el receptor Amari Cooper de los Oakland Raiders, la respuesta fue muy dividida. Al final de cuentas, Cooper estaba pasando por una temporada bastante mala junto a su equipo. Sus números iban en decline y muchos habían perdido la fe en la ex-estrella de la universidad de Alabama y cuarta selección global en el NFL Draft del 2015.

Pero sorpresa, sorpresa. Desde que se unió a las filas de los Dallas Cowboys, Amari Cooper ha demostrado que la decisión que tomaron los Jones fue una muy buena.

En esta liga, es muy complicado justificar el deshacerse de un pick de primera ronda.

Estamos hablando de la oportunidad de tomar a un novato joven con muchísimo potencial para convertirse en un jugador calibre All-Pro en algún punto de su carrera. No es fácil renunciar a una posibilidad así en esta liga. Sin embargo, Amari Cooper no ha hecho más que justificar el trade por parte de los Cowboys. Si continúa así, al final de la temporada podríamos estar hablando de que Dallas pagó de menos por él.

Es importante recalcar que Amari Cooper tiene 24 años de edad. Para el NFL Draft del 2019, los mejores prospectos en esta posición tienen a lo mucho cuatro años menos. A.J. Brown de Ole Miss tendrá 21 años cuando pise el emparrillado por primera vez en la NFL.

Y no, ninguno de estos receptores está cerca del nivel de talento con el que cuenta Cooper.

#DALvsPHI: Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott Key to Clipping the Eagles Wings?

¿Qué tan grande ha sido el impacto de Amari Cooper?

Desde la semana 9, cuando los Cowboys consiguieron a Cooper, este ha tenido 30 recepciones. 23 de las cuales han resultado en un primer down o en un touchdown. Es el receptor con más atrapadas en tercera oportunidad. Podríamos hablar de las grandes estadísticas que el wide receiver ha conseguido vistiendo la estrella individualmente. Pero realmente, ha tenido un impacto en la ofensiva entera.

Desde su llegada, los Cowboys son el tercer mejor equipo en porcentaje de pases completos, el segundo en yardas después de la recepción y el tercero a la hora de convertir terceras oportunidades y mover las cadenas.

Simple y sencillamente, ha tenido un impacto que ningún otro novato del 2019 hubiera tenido en este equipo. Si, los Cowboys tendrán que pagarle una extensión cara en el futuro, pero cuando este sea el caso, lo habrá valido.

Amari Cooper es el ejemplo perfecto de porque la NFL es un deporte de equipo. Con los Raiders, todos lo tachaban como un jugador que ya no era bueno e iba para abajo. Pero bajo los Dallas Cowboys, se ve como un jugador que promete mucho para esta joven franquicia que necesitaba un verdadero #1 en la posición de wide receiver.

La ofensiva de los Cowboys tiene mucho talento. Es cuestión de mejorar en zona roja para que Dallas sea una amenaza bastante considerable en los playoffs de la NFL.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: Sí, Amari Cooper Lo Valió" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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