Wide Receiver Devin Smith generated a lot of enthusiasm with his strong play in the 2019 preseason. But that didn’t carry over into the real games, and now Smith finds himself in a dogfight for the bottom of the Dallas Cowboys’ roster in the 2020 training camp.
After winning a national championship at Ohio State in 2014 with Ezekiel Elliott and then becoming a 2nd-round pick for the Jets, Devin’s career hasn’t gone as most expected. Injuries caused him to quickly fall out of favor with New York and eventually led to him becoming a reclamation project for the Cowboys.
Smith looked ready to reward Dallas after putting up 14 catches, 188 yards, and a touchdown in last year’s preseason. A 51-yard touchdown catch in the Week 2 win over Washington refueled the hype train, making folks ask if Devin deserved to be a bigger part of the WR rotation.
But it all came to a screeching halt from there. Devin did little in the Cowboys’ following game against Miami and then was a complete no-show in their Week 4 loss to the Saints. He wouldn’t be active the rest of the season.
Why didn’t Dallas use Smith at all from October to December? While his inconsistency on offense played a part, a huge reason is that Devin offers no value on special teams. The Cowboys had to keep him inactive so that guys like Tavon Austin, Cedrick Wilson, and Ventell Bryant could dress and contribute in multiple phases of the game.
If Devin Smith doesn’t start making some big waves in the last week of 2020 training camp, his lack of special teams value could cost him a roster spot.
The Cowboys’ WR depth chart for this year is already starting to crystalize. We knew the top three all the way back in April; Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb. And based on reports all through camp, the WR4 spot appears to have been claimed by third-year prospect Cedrick Wilson.
Another camp standout so far has been Noah Brown. After two injury-plagued years, Brown is re-energizing his own hype and making a push for the roster.
Devin Smith has things that neither of these guys do. Perceived potential once made him the 37th-overall pick in his draft class, compared to Cedrick and Noah both being late-round nobodies in their years. Devin has the speed to be a true vertical threat and to make plays after the catch.
The problem, though, is that Dallas is already loaded with offensive weapons. They’re not going to take any of those top three receivers, Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, or even Blake Jarwin off the field anymore than they have to.
For anyone trying to make the roster as the 4th-6th receiver, being able to wear more than one hat is a big deal. And while Wilson, Brown, and Ventell Bryant all have special teams roles to offer, that just isn’t part of Devin Smith’s game.
Throw in the fact that Devin’s now 28 and his job security gets even shakier. The Cowboys might prefer to move on to a younger player like Bryant, Jon’Vea Johnson, or Aaron Parker for ongoing development and future potential.
At this point, Smith’s best chance of making the 2020 roster is if Dallas goes long at WR with six players. That would give them their special teams guys in Wilson and either Brown or Bryant, then leave Devin as a speed weapon who can get used here and there.
But if the Cowboys decide they have their bases covered with Wilson and Brown rounding out the top five then Devin Smith probably isn’t going to force the issue. They’d have a hard time keeping him active on game days without a special teams role, and at that point Smith’s just taking up a roster spot that could be used for player development.
There’s still one more week of camp to go and things could change. But as it stand right now, Devin Smith’s lack of special teams value and the rising stock of other players appear to be pushing him off the roster in 2020,