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Will LB Jaylon Smith Earn His First Pro Bowl Trip in 2019?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Jaylon Smith, Eli Manning, Giants

The Dallas Cowboys starting duo at linebacker will be envied by many defenses around the NFL. Last season, rookie Leighton Vander Esch and a finally healthy version of Jaylon Smith dominated from sideline to sideline throughout the season. For the most part, they did so without veteran defensive star Sean Lee in the lineup, who suffered an injury midseason and had his job taken away by the rookie sensation. Vander Esch's season went surprisingly well as he exceeded the expectations of many who weren't excited about him being taken in the first round by the Cowboys.

Although the rookie went to the Pro Bowl, he was originally snubbed from the team. He then made the trip as a replacement for Carolina Panthers' Luke Kuechly. In fact, Vander Esch wasn't even in the ballot when the voting started. Although Vander Esch ended up playing for the NFC team in his first season in the NFL, Jaylon Smith hasn't have the chance to be a Pro-Bowler.

In a recent NFL.com article, Marc Sessler predicted a first-time Pro-Bowler for each of the NFL teams and Smith was the guy for the Dallas Cowboys. To be honest, I wouldn't have picked anyone else. What Jaylon did in 2018 was absolutely remarkable and should only be better in the upcoming season.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 3

Dallas Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith

His career in the NFL didn't begin quite as planned since the moment in which he seriously injured his knee during his final bowl game in Notre Dame. After tumbling all the way into the second round in the 2016 NFL Draft, he had to sit out hist first season in the pros and finally got playing time in 2017. Even then, he clearly was far from being 100% healthy. It wasn't until last year that we saw the Jaylon Smith we witnessed playing for the Fighting Irish on Saturdays.

In 2018, Smith racked up 121 tackles (82 solo), six tackles for loss, four sacks and two forced fumbles. Talk about a breakout season! He went from playing in 55% of the defensive snaps in 2017 to lining up in 95% of them last year. He also had a lot of success when rushing the passer, something the Cowboys did more with their linebackers thanks to Kris Richard's influence on the defensive gameplan.

"Smith recorded the top pass-rush win percentage (27.8) and second-best pass-rush grade (84.8) at his position, per Pro Football Focus." - Marc Sessler on Jaylon Smith.

Smith's speed, change of direction and explosiveness were on point all season at middle linebacker. He's undoubtedly a Pro-Bowl caliber player. Now granted, the NFC has plenty of big names at the position, so it isn't an easy feat to make the team. Bobby Wagner and Luke Kuechly are likely to lead the voting just like last year, but Smith will be in the conversation.

At the end of the day though, the Pro Bowl doesn't really mean that much. As long as the Cowboys linebacker keeps his level of play to such a high-level, the team will be concerned about playing in the Super Bowl, not one week before.

It's easy to get excited about a linebacker duo that after such an impressive season will return even more experienced and developed. The Dallas Cowboys have a very talented defense all around, but that couple of linebackers might be the most exciting part about it.

Tell me what you think about "Will LB Jaylon Smith Earn His First Pro Bowl Trip in 2019?" 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!



I love to write, I love football and I love the Dallas Cowboys. I've been rooting for America's team all the way from Mexico ever since I can remember. If you want to talk football, I'm in... You'll find me at @MauNFL.

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Report: Cowboys’ Travis Frederick Ready for Start of Training Camp

John Williams

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Cowboys Center Travis Frederick Still Hoping to "Be a Rock" for Teammates Despite GBS Syndrome

With the Dallas Cowboys opening training camp with their first practice on Saturday, July 27th in Oxnard, California, a lot of information is coming out regarding who will be available when they report.

It was already reported that Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence and Cornerback Byron Jones will be placed on the physically unable to practice (P.U.P.) list to start training camp. Now, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network is reporting that Travis Frederick will avoid the Non-Football Injury list (NFI) and be ready to report for the starting of training camp.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

Very good news for the #Cowboys: All-Pro C Travis Frederick, who dealt with Guillain-Barré syndrome last year, is expected to be active for the start of training camp. He avoids NFI and is ready to go.

Frederick has been out of action for a year after being diagnosed with Guillen-Barre Syndrome during last year's training camp. Guillen-Barre is a disorder that can affect the peripheral neurological system. Basically, the neurological system that doesn't consist of the brain and the spinal cord, which is the central nervous system.

There was talk that Frederick might have been ready to go for the playoffs at the end of last season, but the team continued to hold him out in order to get him back 100% for 2019. It looks like the time has come for Frederick to regain his spot as the leader and lynch-pin of the offensive line.

While Joe Looney was effective in 2018, there's no doubt the team suffered a drop off from All-Pro Travis Frederick to career backup Looney. Getting Frederick back in the middle of the offensive line is the most significant upgrade the Dallas Cowboys could have made this offseason on either side of the football.

Frederick is one of the smartest players on the team and does a lot for Dak Prescott and the offensive line in terms of setting protections. For Dak Prescott, he'll be able to have a little more faith that the front of his pocket will hold up if he needs to step up to make a throw. Frederick will also help Connor Williams as the two work combo blocks against opposing interior defenders. Frederick will immediately improve the Dallas Cowboys red zone offense as they'll be able to get more of a push on the interior.

It was almost expected that this would be the case, but hearing it for certain should give the Dallas Cowboys and their fans a lot of optimism for what's to come in 2019. Travis Frederick returning to the starting lineup is a huge addition for a Dallas Cowboys offense that looks ready to roll in 2019.



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Dallas Cowboys 2019 Training Camp Preview: Cornerback

Jess Haynie

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Sean's Scout: Starting Front 7 Sets Tone Early, Cowboys Depth Falters in Loss to Bengals 1
AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth

The Dallas Cowboys have spent a lot of draft picks the last few years to build up their cornerbacks group. There is a lot of potential heading into 2019, but Dallas needs these young players to take the next step if they want to compete for a championship. This weekend's start to training camp will be an important part of the process.

Dallas' best move to help the cornerback position was switching Byron Jones back there in 2018 after a few seasons at safety. Jones went to his first Pro Bowl and has positioned himself for a big contract extension.

Byron is currently set to play 2019 on his fifth-year option of $6.27 million, which is a steal for a CB of his caliber. Whether or not the Cowboys allow him to enter unrestricted free agency next year, or get a new deal signed, will be something to watch for throughout the upcoming season.

Jones' future may be in question, but we at least know he'll be the team's top corner this season. None of the other Dallas CBs can enjoy that same certainty in 2019, as depth chart positioning and job security are all in flux right now.

Here is the current CB depth chart headed into training camp:

  1. Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie
  2. Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis
  3. Michael Jackson, Donovan Olumba
  4. C.J. Goodwin, Chris Westry
  5. Treston Decoud

Will this list hold as is, or will we some shifting over the five weeks of training camp and preseason?

The battle for snaps between Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis will be an intriguing ongoing storyline. Awuzie was the starter last year, and will hopefully make a big developmental leap in his third year.

But Anthony Brown has proven himself a capable player despite being just a 6th-round pick in 2016. Entering the final year of his rookie deal, Brown will certainly be pushing for a significant role this season to hopefully help his free agent marketability in 2020.

Jourdan Lewis

Dallas Cowboys CB Jourdan Lewis

If things go like they did last year, both Awuzie and Brown will get plenty of playing time. The true enigma of this bunch is Jourdan Lewis, who is hoping to be more than just the number-four CB in 2019.

Though he was drafted a round later than Awuzie in 2017, Lewis was generally considered the superior talent by most draft analysts. He fell due to a domestic violence accusation a month before the draft for which he was eventually found not guilty.

Jourdan was looking good at the end of his rookie season, but the arrival of Kris Richard as Defensive Backs Coach last year seemed to cause a regression. Lewis only got in on a little over 18% of the total defensive snaps in 2018, while the top three all had 67% or higher.

Despite his few opportunities, Lewis still had one of the biggest plays of the year with his interception that sealed Dallas' stunning upset over the New Orleans Saints. His potential has been noted, with Coach Richard even calling him an "exception" to his general preference for bigger, stronger cornerbacks.

But even if the team likes Jourdan, can he beat Awuzie or Brown? Could he perhaps have more value in a trade, with two years left on that rookie deal, to a team in greater need at CB?

Michael Jackson

CB Michael Jackson

The idea of moving Lewis, which existed prior to the draft, gained steam when Dallas used a 5th-round pick this year acquire CB Michael Jackson out of Miami. He fits that prototypical build at corner, and perhaps the Cowboys are hoping he can show enough early to provide an adequate replacement if they want to trade Jourdan.

If not Jackson, prospect Donovan Olumba is another option. He nearly made the 53 last year but got squeezed out when Dallas only kept four cornerbacks. After a year on the practice squad, Olumba is back and could be ready for a roster spot.

Veteran C.J. Goodwin has bounced around the NFL since 2014 but has some real-game experience. If the young guys aren't in a position to be game-day active, perhaps he would be the best option. Dallas added him in the middle of the 2018 season and he was helping on special teams and as a reserve corner at the end of the year.

Undrafted rookie Chris Westry, listed at 6'4", is another intriguing player to watch in camp. That rare size is something you can't teach, and hopefully Richard can develop Westry enough to get something out of the physical gifts.

This should be a fun 2019 training camp at cornerback, with competition potentially at every spot on the depth chart except the very top. And while secure at number-one, even Byron Jones has his own question marks around his long-term future in Dallas.

We'll start getting some answers in just four more days!

~ ~ ~

OTHER 2019 CAMP PREVIEWS



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Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence and CB Byron Jones to Start 2019 Camp on PUP

Jess Haynie

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DeMarcus Lawrence

The Dallas Cowboys will be missing two of their defensive leaders when they open 2019 training camp this Saturday. Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence and Cornerback Byron Jones will both start camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) List as they recover from offseason surgeries.

Lawrence, who got a new five-year contract in April, immediately underwent shoulder surgery once his deal was finalized. DeMarcus reportedly was waiting for contract negotiations to be completed before he had the procedure.

Jones had hip surgery in late May. He is playing 2019 on the fifth-year option from his original contract, and is no doubt hoping for his own long-term extension sometime in the near future.

David Moore on Twitter

Sources: DeMarcus Lawrence and Byron Jones will open Cowboys camp on PUP and won't practice in California https://t.co/jzWV5FjBO6 via @sportsdaydfw

Neither Lawrence or Jones, who are both coming of Pro Bowl seasons in 2018, are expected to be absent once the regular season starts in September. But either participating in this year's training camp is doubtful, and even preseason appearances are in question right now.

With DeMarcus out at DE, newcomers like Robert Quinn and Kerry Hyder will get plenty of chances to show their stuff.  It's also a nice opportunity for Taco Charlton, assuming he's recovered from his own offseason surgery, to get some work against the first-team offensive line.

No Byron at CB will give Jourdan Lewis a nice opportunity to work with the starters as well. He was likely stuck at the 4th spot behind Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, and Anthony Brown but should now get more time on the field and against the best competition.



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