I’m Sold On: Jaylon Smith, Linebacker
By all accounts, Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith appears to be one of the most positive people walking the planet Earth. And it was that optimism that surely helped him make his way back from suffering a possible career-ending knee injury in college to the brink of NFL stardom.
But that kind of blind optimism comes with the side effect of telling only partial truths. And although Smith may believe he’s completely recovered from his injury, and that he’s playing even better than he did at Notre Dame, sometimes what we see on the field doesn’t match that faith.
For instance, the fact Smith was even on the field last season was a miracle. But he certainly wasn’t the player who dominated college football in 2015, racking up 115 total tackles, 9.0 tackles for a loss and a sack in 13 games for the Fighting Irish.
In fact, Smith seemed hesitant to trust his injured knee, lacking lateral quickness, and being a second or two late when it came to making plays. But injuries to starting linebackers Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens forced the then 22-year old into early action last year. And the more he played, the more he was exposed. Smith ended his last season recording 81 total tackles and one sack.
In what is essentially now his second year as a pro, Smith’s hesitation is gone. Physically, the 6-foot-2, 245 pound Adonis looks and plays more menacing than ever. In three games, Smith’s racked up 22 combined tackles and two sacks. Projected out for the entire season, that’s a Pro Bowl-type stat line of 117 total tackles and 10.5 sacks.
With Sean Lee once again out due to injury, the onus of quarterbacking the Dallas Cowboys defense falls to Jaylon Smith. But the 23-year old seems more prepared than ever to take up that mantle.