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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

3 Comments

  1. Zac H

    June 7, 2018 at 2:57 pm

    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!

  2. David carter

    June 7, 2018 at 8:38 pm

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

  3. John Williams

    John Williams

    June 8, 2018 at 6:21 am

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

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Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick

Jess Haynie

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Devin Smith

The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly signed Receiver Devin Smith, previously with the New York Jets, to a futures contract. Smith was a 2nd-round pick, 37th overall, in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Before going pro, Devin was a college teammate of current Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Noah Brown. They were all members of the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes team that won the National Championship.

Smith's agent, Jason Bernstein, tweeting the following earlier today:

Jason Bernstein on Twitter

Congrats to WR Devin Smith @dsmithosu for signing with the #DallasCowboys! Welcome back. https://t.co/hCMYoE8fEh

Thus far, Smith's NFL career has been marred by injuries. He has suffered two ACL tears in the same knee and only been able to appear in 14 games. He was waived by the Jets last summer and was not with any team last season.

Overall, the 2015 class of receivers has been disappointing. Amari Cooper has been a star and other later-round picks like Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, and Jamison Crowder have been good. But the other big names of the class, such as Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, and DeVante Parker, have not lived up to the hype.

The Cowboys are known for trying to reclaim players who once had high draft status and bad starts to their careers. They are clearly hoping to cash in on Smith's previously perceived potential, which had him projected as a possible first-round talent at one time.

For both Devin and Dallas' sake, we hope it's a success!



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DeMarcus Lawrence Named Top Free Agent Of The 2019 Class

Kevin Brady

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Breaking Down DeMarcus Lawrence's League High 5.5 Sacks Through Week 4

Much has been made about the Dallas Cowboys 2019 free agent class. Dallas has a ton of cap space moving forward, but they are going to "have" to pay many of the key players on their roster over the next two offseasons in order to keep their young core together.

Of course, when you're drafting, that's the goal. To draft so well that when your own players become free agents, you go ahead and pay them to keep them around, rather than overpay on the free agent market for external players.

One of the major pieces the Cowboys will have to retain this offseason is defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. And while Cowboys Nation often thinks of Lawrence as underrated around the league, the NFL has caught onto his importance as he enters free agency this Spring.

ESPN.com ranked their top 10 free agents for 2019, with DeMarcus Lawrence clocking in at number one, over elite players like Jadeveon Clowney and Le'Veon Bell.

ig: josinaanderson on Twitter

ESPN's top 10 free agents for 2019 and what Le'Veon Bell should be looking to command based on previous measures. https://t.co/aJ7H1n001t

DeMarcus Lawrence is going to command big time money, likely even Khalil Mack-type money. But the fact of the matter is that he has earned it. Lawrence has been the heart and soul of the Cowboys defensive line the last two seasons, and the most consistent edge player on the team as well.

Not only has he been an effective pass rusher, but DeMarcus Lawrence also plays with a relentless motor against the run that can sometimes be rare to find in those premier pass rushers. He really is a jack of all trades at defensive end, and should be priority number one for the Cowboys this offseason.

Thankfully, I can't imagine the Cowboys not retaining DeMarcus Lawrence and extending him in the coming months.



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When it Mattered Most, Cowboys Offensive Line Protected Dak Prescott

John Williams

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All-22 Notes: Connor Williams Stands Out in Wild Card Win

Throughout the 2018 NFL season, one of the major story lines surrounding the Dallas Cowboys was how frequently Dak Prescott was taking sacks. It's an area that the Cowboys will have to look at in the offseason to better protect their franchise quarterback moving forward. In the playoffs, however, Dak Prescott and the offensive line were much better at keeping their prized possession upright than they were in the regular season.

In the regular season, Dak Prescott was sacked 56 times for an average of 3.5 times a game. There was only one game where he wasn't sacked at all, way back in week two against the New York Giants. Four times this season, the Cowboys' quarterback was sacked five or more times. The New Orleans Saints got him for a season high seven times.

According to Pro Football Focus, Dak was "kept clean" -- not pressured -- on 63% of his drop backs during the regular season, which ranked 25th in the NFL. When kept clean, Prescott completed 74.1% of his passes, which was good for 5th in the NFL during the regular season. He was under pressure 37% of the time, which was the sixth highest rate in the NFL and his completion percentage dropped to 52.6%, still good for 10th in the NFL. It was better than Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Baker Mayfield.

During the playoffs, Prescott's "kept clean" percentage rose from 63% to 68% and he was only sacked once in each game. The one sack against the Los Angeles Rams probably shouldn't have been called a sack as the referee blew the whistle because Prescott was "in the grasp"...

...of his offensive lineman.

During the playoffs, the Cowboys offensive line kept the pressure off of Prescott at a better rate, allowing him to be pressured on only 31.9% of his drop backs. Meaning he was kept clean at an improved rate from the regular season at 68.1% of his drop backs. This while playing against two teams that are really good at rushing the passer. The Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks both finished in the top half of the league in sacks this season and feature players like Aaron Donald, Jarran Reed, and Frank Clark who all had double-digit sacks.

As we know, pressure rates and sacks aren't all completely on the offensive line. The quarterback, wide receivers, and the play calling all factor in, but the Cowboys are trending in the right direction with their pass protection. A full offseason for Connor Williams in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program, better health for Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and -- fingers crossed -- Travis Frederick, should all help the offensive line play at a higher level heading into the 2019 season.

It can't be overstated how important it will be to get Travis Frederick back into the fold this season. Joe Looney was good, and that might be overstating it a bit. He was not noticeable on most plays during the season, but getting your All-Pro center back will tremendously help the offense in every facet of the game. Frederick's one of the smarter players in the NFL, who helps everyone on the offense to see the blitzes and calls out the protections. Both his mental and physical ability will be a welcomed site when the Cowboys begin practicing in the offseason.

With another year of growth for the quarterback and for the young pieces along the offensive line, and with a full offseason for Dak Prescott to grow with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Blake Jarwin, the Cowboys should be better next season at keeping the quarterback clean.



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