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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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Travis Frederick Regains Strength in Hands, Influence in Cowboys OL Room

Sean Martin

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Travis Frederick Regains Strength in Hands, Influence in Cowboys OL Room 1

The Dallas Cowboys are coming off their most impressive win of the season, keeping playoff hopes alive on the road with a 27-20 victory at the Philadelphia Eagles. Entering the hostile home of the defending Super Bowl champions with three previous road losses already on their record, the Cowboys performance on Sunday night was truly about getting back to their roots. In their second week with Marc Colombo as the Offensive Line Coach, the Cowboys rushed for 171 yards and protected Dak Prescott very well. It was revealed after the game that Frederick was on a coaches headset with Colombo and his new assistant Hudson Houck.

Jane Slater on Twitter

Travis Frederick just told @BenRogers on @1053thefan that Marc Columbo has him on a coaches headset now helping him and Hudson Houck. That's a smart move from Columbo. Smartest guy on the line

The anchor of the Cowboys offensive line since being drafted in 2013, Frederick is regarded as the smartest linemen on the team. It's his mental edge that's made up for a slight lack of size at the position, regarded as one of the worst first round picks in his draft because of this oversight.

Not only is Frederick a welcome addition to the Cowboys brain trust at offensive line, but he did receive some great news on his battle with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) that's kept him out this season. Frederick was placed on injured reserve on October 6th, announcing publicly his GBS diagnosis on August 22nd.

Frederick has a long way to go before he's playing football again, not eligible to do so until week 14 at home against the Eagles. Regaining feeling in his hands is about the 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee getting as healthy as possible away from football. If a return to the Cowboys is possible through his recovery, the team would of course welcome Frederick.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Travis Frederick regains sensation in his hands: "There is some light at the end of the tunnel" https://t.co/wvQhB6KUQp

What Frederick has gained in upper body strength, he must remain patient for in the lower body. While pointing out that over 95% of patients make a full recovery from GBS, Frederick is still waiting to feel sensations in his feet.

The Cowboys have been optimistic that Frederick's condition was caught early enough for a full recovery to be probable.

Dallas' schedule doesn't get any easier following their uplifting win. Returning to the site of last year's demoralizing loss at the Falcons, Frederick likely wishes he could make a miraculous return just a bit more this week.

To make matters worse, Left Tackle Tyron Smith did not practice on Wednesday due to back spasms. It's unknown if rookie Connor Williams will reclaim his starting left guard spot on Sunday, or if Xavier Su'a-Filo has earned another opportunity.

Despite the patchwork nature of a Cowboys offensive line once regarded as the best in the league, and still vital to the entire team's success, Dallas has an abundance of hope that Sunday in Atlanta can be much better than 2017. This starts with Frederick's strength to fight GBS and attempt to rejoin his teammates, wisely given some added game day influence on them by Colombo.

If elevating their level of play up front was all it took for the Cowboys to play up to their potential and pull off an upset on prime time last week, the NFC East is certainly still within reach for a team that must now sustain the level of play on offense to match what this defense has given all season.

Tell us what you think about "Travis Frederick Regains Strength in Hands, Influence in Cowboys OL Room" 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 LB Named NFC Defensive Player of the Week Against Eagles

Jess Haynie

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Leighton Vander Esch
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

You already knew that Leighton Vander Esch, the Dallas Cowboys rookie linebacker, had a great night last Sunday in Philadelphia. Apparently the rest of the football world agreed, and now he's been named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week.

The award is the first of what could be many for Leighton, who has emerged as a defensive leader for the Cowboys. He's been playing more in the absence of veteran Sean Lee, who has been battling hamstring issues all season.

Dallas Cowboys on Twitter

THE. WOLF. HUNTER. Congratulations to #DallasCowboys rookie LB @VanderEsch38 on being named NFC Defensive Player of the Week! → https://t.co/XeSTt2tIpX

This is the second Player of the Week award for a Dallas Cowboys this season. Kicker Brett Maher won the Special Teams version in Week 4 after going 4-for-4 and hitting a game winner over the Detroit Lions.

The Defensive Player award hasn't gone to a Cowboys since Week of 2017, when DeMarcus Lawrence put up three sacks against the Arizona Cardinals.

Leighton's recognition is also well-earned. He led Dallas with 13 tackles and an interception in a pivotal road victory against a division rival. In what was arguably a "must-win" game for the Cowboys, their first-round pick stepped up and stood out.

A few more games like this, and Vander Esch could be in the running for the Defensive Rookie of the Year. But even above personal accolades, Leighton's play could help the Cowboys make a push in the NFC East.

If nothing else, he's making that first-round pick look smarter every week.



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Legendary Cowboys Quarterback Backs Dak Prescott

John Williams

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Takeaway Tuesday: Prescott's Legs Give Offense a Much Needed Spark

Things have not gone well for Dak Prescott this season. His play has been up and down and he hasn't given the team or Cowboys Nation much reason to believe that he's the future at the quarterback position for the Dallas Cowboys. Speaking to 105.3 FM The Fan in Dallas today, Legendary Dallas Cowboys Quarterback, Ring of Honor and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Roger Staubach offered support for the Cowboys current quarterback, Dak Prescott.

Staubach had this to say when asked about Dak Prescott.

Mark Lane on Twitter

Roger Staubach on @1053thefan said #Dak is a part of the problem with the #Cowboys offense, but he is not the problem.

Roger Staubach didn't start in the NFL until the third year of his career and thinks that's a good time for the quarterback to make the jump. At this point, we are 40 games into Dak Prescott's NFL career and we can see some of the things that he's good at as well as some of the things that he struggles with.

As Staubach points out, Dak Prescott has the intangibles that you look for in a quarterback, even if his play hasn't been what you'd want at the position. Roger admits that Dak shoulders some of the blame for the offensive woes of the last 16 games, but realizes that there are  many reasons for the Cowboys offensive failures this season.

Roger Staubach believes that the Dallas Cowboys can win with Dak Prescott as their starting quarterback despite some of the flaws that have crept up over the last 16 games. He's not wrong.

Staubach's pretty accurate in his assessment that there's been more good than bad. If you look at the first 24 games of Dak Prescott's career, he was really good. Through the last 16 games, he's struggled at times. So technically there's been more good than bad. The problem is that over the last 16 games, there's been more bad than good. The NFL is a "what have you done for me lately" league and lately Dak hasn't done much. We can debate all day on how much of the struggles Prescott's faced are on him, but everyone should be willing to admit that some of the struggles are on him.

It's plausible that the confidence in Prescott that Jerry Jones has comes from Roger's belief that the Cowboys can win games with Dak Prescott at quarterback; and they have. In Prescott's career, the Dallas Cowboys are 25-15. Though wins are a team stat and not a quarterback stat, it just goes as evidence that Dak Prescott can be a winning quarterback in the National Football League.

Dak has some flaws, but the offense and its play caller haven't helped Prescott much this season. We should be critical of Prescott because he has a big pay day coming, if you believe Jerry Jones. While Dak has some flaws, he also has some traits that can make him a good quarterback in the NFL with the right coaching situation behind him. 2018 may be running out of time for the Dallas Cowboys and their playoff prospects, but the Cowboys have time before they have to make a decision on Prescott.



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