Jaylon Smith is playing well below the level we’ve grown accustomed to causing many to believe something’s wrong with Dallas Cowboys’ star linebacker
Jaylon Smith has been a popular topic for the Dallas Cowboys this week. Some see a noticeable decline in performance while others say it’s an overreaction and more big plays will come. The questions in this are – who’s right and is there cause for concern?
Never doubt Jaylon Smith. That’s something Dallas Cowboys fans have learned firsthand of their third-ish year linebacker out of Notre Dame. It just took one after the whistle hit to drop Jaylon from a top-5 pick to a man who many never play the game again. What would break most men – drove Jaylon (and inspired countless others).
Dallas Cowboys fans know how the story goes from there: Jaylon found a way to play somewhat effectively with a brace. Then Jaylon’s nerves regenerated. Then he regained his mobility, explosiveness, and speed and flashed what he once was before the injury. It was a beautiful story to witness.
But the story didn’t end there.
This summer Jaylon Smith proactively signed an extremely team friendly contract that’s well below market value. It rallied Cowboys Nation who grew tired and despondent with the contract negotiations with Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and Ezekiel Elliott.
Jaylon Smith is the perfect teammate, perfect leader, and perfect example for all to admire. That’s what makes it difficult to criticize his play three weeks into the 2019 season. He’s our favorite redemption story.
For those of us watching the All-22, we see something’s not quite right. It may be just an anomaly, but it’s real.
This is all very possibly an overreaction. There are many who claim Jaylon is a splash play machine who thrives on key big plays – not consistent production. They say eventually he will progress to the mean and this entire conversation will soon seem silly.
But reducing Jaylon to a feast-or-famine slash play machine is insulting to the every-down greatness that Jaylon is. Yes, Jaylon is the second most productive big play producer on the defense (just behind DeMarcus Lawrence in impacting opponent expected points), but you can see that playmaking ability all game long, even on plays he’s not directly involved in.
It’s about the total body of work. For those watching his every play in film study, it looks like something’s wrong (possibly as simple as conditioning). The coaching film doesn’t lie. For those just focusing on slash plays, it’s understandable they aren’t as concerned.
Even in Jaylon’s first season with the brace, he’s never played this poorly. Pro Football Focus has him ranked 62nd in the NFL at his position, and his 49.0 score is a far cry from last season’s 84.5 and even well below his hobbled 2017 season where he scored 69.4. Say what you want about PFF but they’re pretty solid in their methodology. At the very least they always end up in the ballpark. Jaylon’s waaaaay outside that ballpark. Heck, he ain’t even in the parking lot.
Normally, this is something I’d resist the urge to write about since the sample is small and Jaylon is fairly proven. But the dismissive nature of many in media kept me from such restraint. For those of us watching the All-22, we see something’s not quite right. It may be just an anomaly, but it’s real. Jaylon isn’t playing up to the standard in which we’ve grown accustomed. That has nothing to do individual stats or overall team success. It’s about his film.
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Jaylon Smith didn’t suddenly forget to play football. Or come up with a case of football’s “yips”. He’s just off. It seems quite clear something’s wrong with Jaylon. Now Jason Garrett’s not talking about it. Neither is Jaylon. And Joe Thomas’ snaps were according to plan and when an exhausted Jaylon needed a break. He didn’t get yanked for poor play.
Last week was actually Jaylon’s best too. He had the best defensive play of the day with his strip tackle. And he led the team in tackles with 10. Jaylon Smith is producing. He’s just not producing the quality he was last season. And watching him run, it looks like something is wrong. Maybe he’s hesitant. Maybe he’s hurt. Or maybe he’s just tired.
Maybe, it’s just a small sample of a long season and we’ll be laughing at all of this worry one day.
This is something we’ll be monitoring in coming weeks. Hopefully it’s much to do about nothing and Jaylon bounces back and starts playing like he did last season. But maybe he’s playing through an injury and is playing poorly because of it. Whatever it is, we probably shouldn’t dismiss concern until we see more.
- Published on 09/27/2019 at 12:00 PM
- Last updated at 09/27/2019 at 07:08 AM