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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.

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Will DeMarcus Lawrence Be Franchise Tagged Again in 2019?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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DeMarcus Lawrence, Franchise Tags and Realities for Dallas Cowboys
Matthew Emmons / USA TODAY Sports

The deadline for extending players under the franchise tag has come and gone last Monday, in a day in which none of the remaining tagged players reached an agreement with their respective teams. That includes Dallas Cowboy Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence, who's set to earn $17M in 2018.

The front office and the 26-year old defensive end failed to agree to a new contract before the season's start, but we saw that coming. After all, there was never a point in which we had the classic "X player and his team are close to a new deal" headline.

All of this makes the future of the Cowboys' promising "War Daddy" very uncertain. What lies a head of the player that put on an impressive show in 2018?

Since 2017 was Lawrence's breakout year, racking up 14.5 sacks trough the season, we have leaned towards the narrative of last season being his only good one. His performance last season was impressive and clearly his best one yet, but we tend to overlook 2015.

In his sophomore season, the only other year in which he has played 16 games, he finished the campaign with eight sacks and 35 tackles (55 combined). Really, the idea of 2017 being his only good year is not as accurate as we might think.

That being said, I think it's more likely that we see another great year from him this upcoming season than seeing a disappointing one. This, of course, will end up being the main thing that determines his future in Dallas.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 1

Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence

The Dallas Cowboys front office really took a risk by tagging Lawrence this offseason. #90 was reportedly asking for an average of $17M per year in his long-term contract, which is Olivier Vernon kind of money.

So what if he puts a similar season or an even better one? Lawrence and his agent could end up asking for even more money. Perhaps in the 18 or 20 million dollars per year range. If that ends up being the case, the team will find itself in a tough position when trying to reach an agreement with its promising pass rusher.

Which leads us to the possibility of seeing the Cowboys franchise tagging Lawrence for the second consecutive season. Dallas will already be negotiating a contract extension with QB Dak Prescott, and things will get complicated. Even more if they decide to pursue a big-time free agent in March, such as Earl Thomas.

It would make sense, from a financial perspective, to hand the tag twice in consecutive years to D-Law. However, it shouldn't be the priority. If he plays like he did in 2017, the front office will be more than wise to extend him for good.

According to OverTheCap.com, the Cowboys will have approximately $50.6M. Seemingly, the team's cap woes will be over soon.

Fortunately, Lawrence didn't become a headache by threatening to holdout for offseason programs and even training camp. However, don't expect that to happen if he finds himself under the tag next year.

Careers in the NFL are short, so DeMarcus will surely want to get paid. If he keeps it up, he'll deserve it. As much as he deserves it, though, football is a cold business. If the Jones need to tag him, they will.

Do you think the Cowboys will franchise tag Lawrence in 2019?

Tell me what you think about "Will DeMarcus Lawrence Be Franchise Tagged Again in 2019?" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 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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Without Looming Suspension, RB Ezekiel Elliott Should Shine In 2018

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys en Español: 3

NFL Films typically does a good job of exposing some truths around NFL teams. Whether through "Hard Knocks" or Amazon's new "All or Nothing" series, these documentaries do an excellent job of giving fans an inside look of their favorite teams.

If anything was revealed through the Cowboys' All or Nothing series on their 2017 season, it's that Ezekiel Elliott's suspension weighed heavy on his mind all year.

The Pro Bowl running back did not look, act, or play like himself while awaiting decision on his incoming suspension. And, once it was finally announced he would serve the six games, the entire team collapsed in Atlanta.

Despite the clear and detrimental effects Elliott's suspension had on the Cowboys' season, Zeke still put up more-than-respectable numbers; rushing for almost 1,000 yards and averaging a league leading 98.3 yards per game.

Now, Ezekiel Elliott enters a season with no doubts about his own availability. Scott Linehan gets to coach an offense that knows they will have their best player for the entire season barring major injury. And, Jason Garrett can lead his team without addressing questions about Elliott's future day in and day out.What Workload is Ezekiel Elliott Prepared for in 2018? 1

Of course, these effects aren't quantifiable. We can't sit here and say that without the pressure of court appearances and suspensions that Elliott will be worth "X" amount of more yards and "Y" more touchdowns.

But I do believe we can say, without question, that playing with a clear mind and without a looming suspension will breed the type of production we saw from Zeke his rookie year.

We can say that Elliott has had a weight lifted off his shoulders, and could be looking for revenge on a league he feels did him wrong.

And, for the Cowboys sake, I hope this is true. Because they are going to need Ezekiel Elliott to be even better than he ever has been if they hope to make a run at the Super Bowl in 2018.



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Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: El Regreso de Randy Gregory

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Randy Gregory, Eagles
Eric Hartline / USA TODAY Sports

A sólo días de que los Dallas Cowboys aterricen en Oxnard, California para dar inicio a su training camp como todos los años, el equipo recibió excelentes noticias respecto a la selección de segunda ronda del 2015: Randy Gregory. Después de pasar todo el 2017 suspendido, el ala defensiva ha sido oficialmente reintegrado por la NFL.

Gregory, quien tuvo muchos problemas debido al uso de marihuana, ha pasado los últimos meses rehabilitándose para poder volver a vestir la estrella y volver al emparrillado. Los Cowboys, quienes siempre apoyaron a su joven jugador, sin duda estarán felices de verlo de vuelta en el equipo por motivos más allá que el football americano.

Sin duda alguna, antes de estar emocionados y felices por verlo en el campo intimidando a quarterbacks rivales, deberíamos estar alegres por el logro personal de Randy como un ser humano. Realmente hizo un esfuerzo consciente en un lugar en el que muchos se hubieran rendido y dejado sus sueños de ser parte de la NFL. Pero no lo hizo, y ahora, todos sus esfuerzos han valido la pena.

El siguiente paso en su lista por-hacer, es volver al campo y poco a poco, ganarse su puesto en el equipo y después, la titularidad. La última vez que vimos a Gregory en el campo, fue contra Philadelphia, en el final de temporada del 2016.

En este juego, Gregory mostró muchos destellos de lo que sería capaz de hacer semana tras semana en la liga y porque valió la pena nunca dejarlo ir, lo cual no hubiera tenido sentido hacer, dado que los Cowboys no les costaba nada (literalmente) mantenerlo en el equipo.

Sean Martin escribió un artículo recientemente en el que analiza este partido a fondo.

El potencial de Gregory es inmenso, suficiente incluso, para aventurarse a decir que se convertirá en el defensive end (ala defensiva) derecho antes de lo esperado. El reto más grande para el jugador de 25 años será regresar a una condición física óptima para la NFL.

Afortunadamente, a diferencia del 2016, Gregory no estará regresando a media temporada. Su llegada toma lugar justo a tiempo para el training camp, dándole tiempo para regresar a la forma en la que tiene que estar.

Una vez ahí, ¿qué tanto le tomará ganarse un rol más importante que el de Tyrone Crawford y Taco Charlton? A pesar de que prácticamente no lo hemos visto jugar en Dallas, sabemos el potencial que tiene para convertirse en un defensivo de suma importancia para los Cowboys.

Un año después de ver la mejor temporada en la carrera de DeMarcus Lawrence, los Cowboys tendrán el potencial de una estrella similar en el lado derecho de su línea defensiva. Gregory tiene una montaña que escalar para cumplir las expectativas de los aficionados, pero no será una sorpresa si lo logra.

Vaya, no olvidemos que si no fuera por sus problemas fuera del campo, hubiera sido seleccionado en el Top 10 del Draft del 2015. Tiene el potencial de conseguir diez sacks por temporada.

Con un poco de suerte, no nos equivocaremos en tenerle fe al jugador que ha tenido un gran viaje para llegar a este punto. El punto de ponerse el casco e ir a trabajar con su equipo.

Incluso si sólo llega a ser un jugador de rotación, sin duda será importante para el éxito del equipo. Entre DeMarcus Lawrence, David Irving, Randy Gregory y el resto del talento que los Cowboys tienen en la línea defensiva, el equipo podría tener un frente de muy buena calidad.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: El Regreso de Randy Gregory" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 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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