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With Lee and Vander Esch Out, LB Jaylon Smith Ends OTAs on High Note

Sean Martin

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With Lee and Vander Esch Out, LB Jaylon Smith Ends OTAs on High Note 2

The Dallas Cowboys have concluded their OTAs in preparation for the 2018 season. Moving into mini camp next week, we've already learned a lot about the team's thinking for players both new and old. Somewhere in the middle of this is Linebacker Jaylon Smith. Despite taking significant strides at the end of last season, the Cowboys were not prepared to enter this year with only Smith and Sean Lee as "reliable" options.

Adding 19th overall pick Leighton Vander Esch to the mix, the Cowboys were up front about their need to add depth and play making ability at linebacker. This isn't to say that anything they get out of a surging Jaylon Smith won't be deeply appreciated. Using Smith as a pass rusher and SAM linebacker through practices thus far, the Notre Dame product was all over the field in the Cowboys final OTA practice, stepping up admirably in the absence of both Vander Esch and Lee.

Todd Archer on Twitter

Cowboys' rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch did not take part in Wednesday's OTA because of a sprained ankle. It's not anything serious but there was no need to make it worse through an OTA. The other players not practicing today were: Sean Lee,... https://t.co/jwJlmmTf8y

All three players are on course to be on the field together again soon, but the confidence Smith can gain from being "the guy" for a day is immense. Just how prepared the Cowboys are to deal with the potential loss of Sean Lee shouldn't fall entirely on the shoulders of their rookie out of Boise State.

The same is of course said about fringe players like Justin March-Lillard, who also had a strong practice performance in taking advantage of the injuries above him.

Even with Vander Esch potentially getting the nod over Smith at MIKE linebacker in Nickel situations, a healthy Jaylon Smith will do everything to make his impact felt. Where LVE is more of a finesse player with above average pass covering traits, Smith can excel as the Cowboys enforcer against the run.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Jaylon Smith was flying around today. Was making so many stops in the run game that RB coach Gary Brown was jokingly telling him to chill out

It was September 10th, 2017 that the Cowboys unwavering commitment to Jaylon Smith was rewarded. Their second round pick from the previous year's draft suited up for his first game against the New York Giants.

Smith went on to play a remarkable 16 game season, getting noticeably stronger as the games went by.

With Lee and Vander Esch Out, LB Jaylon Smith Ends OTAs on High Note

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, LB Jaylon Smith

There likely wasn't a Cowboys coach or trainer not taken back slightly by seeing Smith continue his journey to live up to every expectation Dallas has put on him yesterday. If they never thought he was good enough (a consensus first round talent before his injury), the Cowboys wouldn't have praised Smith all through his rehab to get on the field for America's Team - something he's doing now at a standout level.

Unless there is legitimate concern that the Cowboys deep stable of running backs, lead again by Ezekiel Elliott, are actually under performing than Wednesday afternoon was a fantastic day at The Star for Jaylon Smith.

https://twitter.com/thejaylonsmith/status/1004549417968521221

Tell us what you think about "With Lee and Vander Esch Out, LB Jaylon Smith Ends OTAs on High Note" 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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3 Comments
  • Zac H

    We support you, Jaylon! Keep on grinding and let everyone know what time it is! The Cowboys will always have your back, now go out there and beat the shit out of the NFC East and beyond!

  • David carter

    Gonna be a great year for the doomsday defence. I can’t wait to see smith nail wentz for a sack fumble. Go cowboys!

  • John Williams

    Let’s freaking go. Can’t wait to see Jaylon Smith this year.

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Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?

Sean Martin

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Despite Late Push in Year One, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See the Field in 2018? 1
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

It feels like ages ago that the Dallas Cowboys spent the 28th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on Michigan Defensive End Taco Charlton. Perhaps this is a result of the constant distancing fans have made from this unpopular pick, or the corresponding moves the Cowboys have made at DE since drafting Charlton.

These moves include using the franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence after seeing him explode for 14.5 sacks, spending a fourth round pick this year on Kansas' Dorance Armstrong, and seeing Randy Gregory reinstated in time for training camp.

Across the entirety of the Cowboys roster, there will be plenty of "odd men out" that miss the cut down to 53 players. Defensive end remains one of the most cluttered spots on the current 90 man roster however.

Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?

Dallas Cowboys DE Taco Charlton, DT Maliek Collins (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)

Prior to establishing the depth the Cowboys now have up front on defense, they did Taco no favors by starting his career at right defensive end. While Gregory may still be a long way from earning the starting role here, similarly styled players like Armstrong have the edge here over Charlton.

This relegates Charlton to the strong side, where he always projected best out of college. By the time the Cowboys realized this a season ago, they also knew a franchise pass rusher was playing his way into the team's long-term plans.

Lawrence's stellar consistency off the edge reduced Charlton's role in the Cowboys rotation of pass rushers. An ideal spot for the rookie to develop with less pressure on him, Charlton's opportunities to continue playing left end may only be reduced this season.

The first-round pick is capable of kicking inside at defensive tackle, a position the Cowboys could certainly use help at. However, asking Charlton to go through another position shift would only halt the progress that took quite a bit of patience from Dallas to see.

It's far from unheard of for the Cowboys to do this with their young players, but for now Charlton remains a defensive end looking to make his impact. The Cowboys are in much better position now than they were at this time a year ago when it comes to setting expectations for him to do so.

Given everything he showed on tape at Michigan as well as in his pre-draft interviews, Charlton is a player that needs to succeed at the task at hand. When this plan is altered, the 6'6" pass rusher is much less effective -- without even considering any athletic struggles that Charlton has compared to other prototypes at defensive end.

As a unit, the Cowboys defensive line has all the pieces to be very effective this season. Taco Charlton is a piece to this puzzle, a backup left end that must find a way to flourish in this role.

For most former 28th overall picks, doing so would be considered a fall from grace. For the Cowboys, it's simply an example of strong roster building that's forced life to come at Charlton quickly. How he responds with a full season under his belt will make or break the hype this deep Cowboys defensive line has garnered, lead of course by the starter at Charlton's position in DeMarcus Lawrence.

Tell us what you think about "Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Cowboys DE Randy Gregory Reinstated, Will Join Team for Training Camp

Sean Martin

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Will the Dallas Cowboys "Get Lucky" at Defensive End?

The Dallas Cowboys patience with Defensive End Randy Gregory has paid off. Suspended for the better part of 2016 and all of 2017, Gregory has officially been reinstated to join the team for their 2018 training camp. The projected starter at RDE, Gregory will report to Oxnard with the rest of the team on July 25th.

From here, it will be all hard work for Gregory to reconnect with Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli and get his promising career back on track. The last time Gregory suited up for the Cowboys, he managed to sack Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Carson Wentz in a week 17 win. The Cowboys will be expecting much more of this from a player they've supported through multiple violations of the league's heavily criticized substance abuse policy.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

Cowboys pass-rusher Randy Gregory's petition for reinstatement was not opposed, according to lawyer Daniel Moskowitz. He's back. "I've never been more proud of any individual in my life. I'm very excited for Randy and his daughter and the rest of the his family.

Among this support staff for Gregory were a number of teammates that wrote formal letters to the NFL as part of his bid for reinstatement. These last few days of preparation before the Cowboys are together again as a team will surely be uplifted by Gregory's presence.

They say no news is typically good news at this point in the offseason, something the Cowboys have come to realize far too often. Today's news shouldn't be confused with a pleasant surprise however, rather something the Cowboys were committed to in getting another premier pass rusher on the field.

Here is the NFL's official press release on their reinstatement of Randy Gregory:

Sean Martin ✭ on Twitter

Sean Martin ✭ on Twitter

https://t.co/za0u3lWgaY

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys DE Randy Gregory Reinstated, Will Join Team for Training Camp" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Cowboys & DeMarcus Lawrence Fail to Reach New Contract

Jess Haynie

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Which 2018 Free Agents Will The Cowboys Retain? 1
Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportwire

DeMarcus Lawrence will definitely be a Cowboy in 2018, but now the future  beyond that remains in question. The Dallas Cowboys and their star defensive end did not agree to a long-term contract by today's deadline for franchise-tagged players.

According to NFL rules, teams had until 4:00 pm EST today to reach contract extensions with free agents who'd been assigned the franchise tag earlier this offseason. Players who did not get new deals will have to play the 2018 season on their one-year franchise tenders.

Jon Machota on Twitter

DeMarcus Lawrence and the Cowboys were unable to work out a long-term contract by today's deadline. Lawrence will play the 2018 season under a one-year franchise tag that will pay him $17.1 million

This does not mean Lawrence will be a free agent in 2019. The two parties can still discuss the contract in the months to come, but the deal cannot be made until after the end of the regular season.

Dallas also has the option of giving DeMarcus a second franchise tag next year. However, that would come at a considerably higher price for a second-straight season.

This year, Lawrence will still make plenty with one of the highest cap hits of any DE in the league. He earned the franchise tag last with 14.5 sacks in a breakout season.

Today's news may not really be a big deal in the long run. As long as Tank wants to stay in Dallas after this, the two sides now have over five months to keep talking and will hopefully agree on a new deal for 2019 and beyond.

There is risk on both sides, of course.

Lawrence's leverage could be less if his productions drops or he gets injured. On the other hand, his position could be even stronger with a second-straight year of strong play.

Now everyone, from the team to player to fans, is in wait-and-see mode until the end of the season.



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