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What Jaylon Smith Release Means for Cowboys Defense

The made a surprising roster move on Tuesday night, moving on from 2016 pick . Playing just 40% of the team's defensive snaps in Sunday's win over Carolina, and 17 snaps all season, the Cowboys decided to get out of Smith's contract mid-season.

The timing of this move hurts the Cowboys cap space situation, but at 3-1 atop the East shows their commitment to allowing coaches to make roster decisions. First-year DC has used rookie and at , with expected to return from the list soon.

Neal started at linebacker in the opener against the Buccaneers as well as the win at the Chargers. Fourth round pick Jabril Cox could also join the Cowboys rotation at LB, putting another player with strong coverage skills on the field. This has been a focus under Quinn, playing three safeties with FA addition as a hybrid LB/S in ‘Big Nickel' sets.

More playing time for Cox on both defense and special teams would give the Cowboys another early contributor from their most recent draft class. Parsons along with and have helped turn the defense around, while second round pick CB Kelvin Joseph is expected to return from IR in the coming weeks.

Joseph can compete for snaps opposite of , the NFL's leader in interceptions with at least one in each game this season. The Cowboys will have help at when returns, inactive against the Chargers and Panthers. , who was signed during , has filled in for Wilson.

All of the changes the Cowboys have made on defense to overhaul a historically bad unit from 2020 point to their need for depth and players that can fill multiple roles. With LB being one of the strengths of this roster coming into the season, it wasn't surprising to see Jaylon Smith lose snaps. Dallas has used their depth here to fill other holes on both defense and special teams, no longer seeing a role for Smith to do either.

The Cowboys have just three remaining 2016 picks – at the time considered a historically good draft class under HC . Fortunately, two of them are and . Tasked with not only driving the Cowboys high-scoring but being locker room leaders as well, an otherwise young Cowboys roster won't be shaken much by the absence of Smith. Their first test without Jaylon Smith will come against Garrett's offense, when the 1-3 Giants visit on Sunday.

Though this will be Garrett and QB ' first game against Quinn's defense, the Giants have lost seven of their last eight to the Cowboys. Jones' lone win against Dallas came in of last year, ending the Cowboys playoff hopes in a division won by a 7-win Washington team.

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The Cowboys have been favorited to win the NFC East this season thanks to their offense, assuming Dak Prescott plays all 17 games. Prescott and the offense have held up their end, but it's the Cowboys rebuild on defense that could see them pull away from the division early. Making the decision to cut Jaylon Smith and trust what they've done at linebacker is just one part of this turnaround.

Sean Martin
Sean Martin
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 every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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