Back in September, it looked like the Cowboys had struck gold in defensive end Aldon Smith.
Once an All Pro level talent who looked to be on a Hall of Fame career trajectory, Smith's career derailed due to a series of off field incidents. But getting another chance with the Cowboys seemed to revitalize him, and he played like a monster the first three games.
But after tallying four sacks the first three weeks, Smith would only get home once more the rest of the season. Despite playing at least 61% of defensive snaps the remainder of the year, Smith's raw stat sheet production fell off a cliff for much of the season.
Still, Aldon Smith was one of the best defensive linemen the Cowboys had on the roster in 2020. And while traditional stats didn't look favorable upon him, he did rank towards the top of the team in “stops” per Pro Football Focus.
#Cowboys leaders in stops for the 2020 season:
1. Jaylon Smith (48)
2. DeMarcus Lawrence (36)
3. Aldon Smith (29)
4. Jourdan Lewis (28)
5. Leighton Vander Esch (24)
Definition of a stop: https://t.co/2Fm1dPIwz9
— John Owning (@JohnOwning) January 4, 2021
A stop, as defined by PFF, is basically a successful tackle. This is meant to filter out the tackles 10 yards down the field on a third and three, and instead put an emphasis on positive defensive plays. So regardless of the low sack total, 29 total stops is a solid output relative to the rest of the team.
Plus, given that he had 48 total tackles, this means that means that 60% of his tackles came on successful defensive plays. Pretty good! Although I do think these percentages are likely skewed in favor of line of scrimmage players.
Aldon Smith hadn't played a snap of football since 2015, and he came “off the couch” and brought five sacks, 31 solo tackles, and a fun fumble recovery touchdown (for what it's worth).
He may not be the athletic monster or pass rusher he once was, but he is a nice pass rushing piece to keep on the roster for next season. Especially on a roster where, hopefully, DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory will be the taking the bulk of the edge rusher snaps in 2021.
Lawrence, Gregory, and Smith can form a nice trio on passing downs next season. I'd like to see the Cowboys retain Aldon Smith, although it's far from the end of the world if he does walk away in free agency.