Dallas Cowboys: Four ways to instantly improve the defense

Everson Griffen, EDGE, Dallas Cowboys. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Everson Griffen, EDGE, Dallas Cowboys. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /
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Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /

Take Jaylon Smith out on Passing Downs

It pains me to write this because he recently earned himself a big contract and is an all around likeable man, but at some point the team has to do what is right for the football team. He isn’t consistently aggressive in run support to leverage blockers at the second level and will move himself out of position in an attempt to trail a pre-snap motion.

However, for how inconsistent Smith has been in run support, I don’t find this as problematic compared to his play in the passing game. In the first two games, Smith defended the pass adequately. However, he’s been getting progressively exposed for his athletic shortcomings ever since week 3 in Seattle.

The Browns on the same drive tested him again with two overlapping routes and you can guess what happens next.

By no means does this make Jaylon unplayable on passing downs. He is still an effective blitzer and shows consistent effort when covering RBs out of the backfield. However, offensive coaches are so good at finding weaknesses in opposing defenses. Having someone with poor agility as a linebacker in coverage will almost instantly put you at a disadvantage.

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The thing is, the Cowboys have linebackers with solid hip fluidity in Luke Gifford and Francis Bernard. In a year where continuity is valued, starting Smith and having him play a majority of the snaps is favorable, but there is an opportunity cost with this decision. Considering the team is currently allowing yards in bunches, it might be time to try something different.

The return of Leighton Vander Esch and Sean Lee should eventually minimize  the coverage liability that is Smith, but until then something needs to give. Giving Smith less play time might be the answer.

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Next. Who could replace Mike Nolan?. dark

I write all these changes knowing my football IQ is significantly lower than Mike Nolan’s. However, just having casually viewed game film, these were my most prominent observations. For a defense that is currently in the bottom of the league in nearly every category, I’d like to think varying some things up could have a positive impact on the team.

After all, it can’t get much worse than this right?