Dallas Cowboys: The tremendous hopes and expectations for Aldon Smith

TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 15: Aldon Smith #99 (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 15: Aldon Smith #99 (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

All-Pro pass-rusher Aldon Smith joins the Dallas Cowboys with some pretty lofty hopes and expectations. Let’s manage those…

When the Dallas Cowboys first signed famed pass-rusher Aldon Smith on April 1st this year, NFL fans everywhere wondered if the announcement was some sort of April Fools joke. Which makes sense since the guy hadn’t played a snap since November 15, 2015.

Since the initial announcement, the hype has slowly built and with Smith’s recent reinstatement, the excitement in Cowboys Nation has hit near peak levels. If the Dallas Cowboys could pair this former 19+ sack player with DeMarcus Lawrence, they cold have two of the best bookends in the NFL. The only problem is Aldon Smith may not be that double-digit sack player anymore.

It’s been roughly half a decade since Aldon Smith has played professional football. And even then he didn’t play more than 10 games in a season since 2013. That’s a pretty significant hiatus from an occupation that relies on youth and athleticism, wouldn’t you say?

Despite that, in a recent interview with TMZ, Aldon Smith is optimistic about his rekindled career:

"“So, I still feel young. I don’t have the milage on my body. I still feel great when I go to the gym……I’m an overall  better person…I was able to play at a high level with a lot of other things going on in my life…My goal is to pick up where I left off.”"

So how good was Aldon Smith before his mandatory sabbatical and how hard will it be for him to pick up where he left off?

We know Smith was a dominant force in his first two seasons in San Francisco when he led the NFL in sacks and earned All-Pro honors, but what about the most recent two seasons when suspensions and hard living started taking their toll? In John Owning’s analysis he points out even in Smith’s “down years” in Oakland, he averaged 4.25 pressures per game which would have led the Dallas Cowboys team last season.

The biggest thing working in Aldon Smith’s favor is his skill set. Specifically, how he achieved success in the past happens to age well for most pass-rushers.

Aldon Smith wins a variety of ways and none of them particularly rely on youth, explosion, or bend. First is his obvious length. Smith stands 6-foot-5 and has over 35 inch arms that rank in the 93rd percentile. Paired with the ability to stride long (or stutter short) he uses those long arms to keep blocks off his chest and deliver blows himself, knocking even the biggest blockers off balance.

His hand technique and pass-rush arsenal is deep. In other words he’s not relying on his elite God-given ability rather he’s well studied and well coached. Speaking of coaches, Aldon will be playing with one of the best defensive line coaches in the NFL, familiar face Jim Tomsula.

In the past Smith has played primarily at outside linebacker but in Dallas there’s a strong chance he’ll be at defensive end. When he signed he was built up to 288lbs. That’s pretty hefty for an OLB but just right for RDE.

What he looks like in training camp will likely indicate what the Dallas Cowboys are planing. If he’s lighter he may be thought of as a SAM/DPR (designated pass-rusher). That way he could easily play in a 2-point stance and move around to exploit match-ups. If he’s still north of 270lbs Dallas probably sees him as DE.

On the right side of the line he’ll be joined by Tyrone Crawford and (hopefully) Randy Gregory. That’s a lot of talent for just one position. That’s why it wouldn’t be surprising to see him at that aforementioned SAM/DPR role one bit. Especially since he’s just as strong against the run as he is against the pass.

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There’s a lot to be excited about regarding Aldon Smith’s comeback. Somethings are working in his favor, others are working against him. Expectations should be nothing more than a role player who’s capable of applying pressure every now and then. The hope is that Smith becomes a force and leans on his physical length and strong technical skills to overcome the 5-year absence.

It’s also important to keep in mind his tenuous status with the NFL. Unlike Randy Gregory, Aldon Smith has substance abuse issues outside of marijuana. The league may be softening up to weed but alcohol offenses remain punishable.

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Don’t expect anything from Aldon Smith and you can’t be disappointment. Expectations should also remain relatively low given his time away from the game. But keeps hopes high because he’s in-shape, highly skilled, physically dominant, and in a good psychological place right now. He’s still just 30-years-old so his ceiling remains high.

  • Published on 05/27/2020 at 12:44 PM
  • Last updated at 05/27/2020 at 12:44 PM