The Dallas Cowboys and Jaylon Smith: the good and bad news

Aug 1, 2016; Irvine, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith (54) at training camp at the River Ridge Fields. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 1, 2016; Irvine, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith (54) at training camp at the River Ridge Fields. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

For the Dallas Cowboys there’s both good news and bad news to report on  expected starting middle linebacker, Jaylon Smith.

I was driving around in my car this week for work, I was listening to the radio when an interview caught my attention. It was on 103.3 here in Dallas, which is the local ESPN station. They were interviewing a Dr. David Chao about Jaylon Smith. I immediately turned the radio up and listened intently to what was being said about Smith.

First, it must be said that Chao is not Jaylon’s doctor. He has never examined him nor has he spoken to anyone who is treating Smith. This isn’t to say Chao’s words should be overlooked or not taken seriously but we must recognize he’s speaking generally and not specifically diagnosing.

Chao was the team doctor for the San Diego Chargers, and has seen Jaylon’s injury before. What he said should give a little hope, and a little fear to fans.

The Bad News

There are some issues that we just don’t know much about. Chao is afraid that the timeline has been a year and a half and still doesn’t have the nerve firing. It is his professional opinion that since it has been so long, the odds of it ever firing are very very slim. He said that if it didn’t refire in the first few months, the longer we wait, the less likely the nerve will ever fire. Not good.

He does go on to say that if Smith becomes a pro-bowler he could have been an all-time great. If Smith becomes a strong starter, then he could have been a pro-bowler. He feels that even with the brace Smith will never be what he could have prior to the injury. Of course no one knows what Smith will be until he actually plays. Jerry Jones has hope, as do many fans, but let’s all temper our expectations until we actually see him play.

Chao feels that at this point Smith will always suffer from drop foot, and will need the brace for the rest of his life. Looking at the situation outside of being a fan, there is some concern that Smith may never live up to expectations. We can all hope Chao is wrong, and believe me we all do, but we do need to look at reality just a little bit.

As Chao said, “Either the nerve fires early, or never at all.”

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The Good News

Chao spoke to how it is a positive that Smith can play in the AFO (Ankle Foot Orthosis) brace. The positive is that Smith has a high likelihood of seeing an NFL field, and at the very least should be able to participate with the team in training camp. The fact Smith can actually hit the field should be a huge relief to the Dallas Cowboys and the fans.

Additionally, the Dallas Cowboys and Jaylon Smith both stated back in late April that the nerve was now firing. Jaylon has regained feeling and some movement in his foot and appears to be on the mend. 

We Shall See

Okay, so what if Smith can’t go or be the player we all want him to be? Well that would mean it would be Damien Wilson at strong side, Sean Lee at weak side, and Anthony Hitchens at middle.

There is a little bit of a logjam at linebacker as currently the Dallas Cowboys have twelve linebackers on the roster. This includes the undrafted free agents, but listed as middle linebackers there are five on the roster currently.

Next: Raised, but tempered, expectations for Rico Gathers and Jaylon Smith

So if Smith can’t play anywhere near what we all hope, the Cowboys will have enough people to cover the gap. However, there could be a huge drop off from what Smith was supposed to be, to what he is or who is behind him. We must relax on saying he will be a Superstar, he may be, however it is smarter to be realistic and take a wait and see approach.

To read the article from Dr. Chao, click here.