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

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,…

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.

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, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Sean Martin

Written by 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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