Will the Dallas Cowboys continue to be cautious with their investment in 2016 second round selection linebacker Jaylon Smith all year?
The Dallas Cowboys knew that they were taking a massive gamble when they drafted injured linebacker Jaylon Smith high in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft. More than a year later, and that gamble appears to have paid off.
Throughout the offseason, the 22-year old defender has been steadily improving, recovering from a devastating knee injury that caused significant nerve damage. Slow and steady seems to be the thought process by the Cowboys and it’s medical staff when it comes to Smith’s progress.
Despite the team’s attempts to shield Jaylon from media attention through OTA’s and minicamps, the rare glimpses of the young linebacker on the field have done little to slow the hype-train surrounding his possible impact on the upcoming season.
But the real test will coming next month when Cowboys’ training camp kicks off. There, Smith should get his first real test of playing with a brace for drop foot, in full pads and with full contact. Still, fans shouldn’t expect him to go full-tilt from the get go.
If Dallas follows it’s pattern, expect the coaches to ease Smith into those practices. In fact, one Cowboys insider believes the team’s philosophy of taking it slow with the former Notre Dame linebacker will continue into the regular season.
"“If you worry about [Jaylon Smith’s] lack of change of direction, which tends to show up in pass coverage as the ‘Mike’ linebacker, you could sub him off the field in nickel situations,” wrote Bryan Broaddus on the team’s official website recently. “Initially he might have to be just a two-down player until he adapts to playing with the brace and more healing. This could be their plan to get him on the field as soon as possible.”"
Obviously, getting a talent like Jaylon Smith on the field as soon as possible is paramount. But the Dallas Cowboys are also coming off a 13-3 season without him. And with the excellent level of play being demonstrated by veteran linebacker Anthony Hitchens this offseason, the Cowboys slow and steady approach might be exactly what the doctor ordered.