Jaylon Smith has improved each year in the league. Last year, he was one of the best linebackers in the league. The Dallas Cowboys linebacker is underrated.
But Smith is more than just a good story, he is a dominant linebacker. Early in his career, his injury really seemed to hold him back. He dealt with drop foot— a condition where the front end of the foot tends to hang and get caught on the ground.
In his first year playing, Smith recorded 61 tackles, 28 stops, two forced fumbles, and one sack per Pro Football Focus. One year later, in 2018, Smith bumped those numbers up to 86 tackles, 44 stops, two forced fumbles, and four sacks.
That is a tremendous jump for any player, even more for someone that only a few years earlier was told he might never play football again. Smith is also a great leader on the defense.
He plays with such power and authority and is not afraid to deliver a blow to the best running backs. In a lot of ways, his physical traits are hidden from teams because he was not healthy during the combine in 2016. His measurables like the forty-yard dash or any of the cone drills are not broadcasted for all the teams to see.
Besides his physical prowess on the field, Smith is a very awesome personality. From watching just one interview with him, you want to root for him. He is optimistic, charismatic, focused, and has a clear eye view.
Last year, the Dallas Cowboys defense was the strength of the team, led by defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who very well could be the most well rounded defensive end in the NFL. But Jaylon Smith was a big factor in the unit’s success as well.
In 2018, Smith was ranked as the 10th most impactful defensive player in the league, according to defensive playmaking EPA analytics. The two right below him were Carolina Panthers linebacker, Luke Kuechly, and Denver Broncos outside linebacker, Von Miller.
Sometimes it seems as if statistics contradict what you see on the field, but this is not the case. Smith had many big plays that either stalled drives or ended them altogether. Remember when Smith chased Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson and thumped him right before the goal line on fourth down?
Or what about when he picked up a fumble and returned it for a 69-yard touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? These are just a couple of the big plays that Smith made.
The rest of the league has to fear the Cowboys linebacking core this season, as they have three linebackers who have all played at a Pro Bowl caliber level in recent years. Smith has not even reached his prime yet. With another offseason to work on his skills, Smith should be a force from the get-go.
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