If the Dallas Cowboys want to get the most from Jaylon Smith they should look at what the Giants are doing with Blake Martinez
Since breaking out in 2018, Jaylon Smith has been a mixed bag for the Dallas Cowboys. On one play he looks like an unstoppable force. The next play he looks like he’s running in mud. For every amazing play he seemingly offers its antithesis on the next two.
With well documented strengths and weaknesses, it’s clear the key to Jaylon Smith, is asking him to do what he does best and avoiding what he struggles with. It’s the same thing the New York Giants have been successfully implementing with their feast or famine linebacker, Blake Martinez.
Dallas Cowboys fans will remember Martinez from his days in Green Bay. Martinez was an average player who played a huge part of the Packers defense. As such, he was often overextended and exposed. When New York brought in Martinez as a free agent, they limited his role. He’s still a leader but he’s just not asked to do more than he can handle. And the early results a pretty darn good.
This season, Blake Martinez has the second most tackles in the NFL. He has a an NFL best 23 stops (as per Pro Football Focus), five tackles for loss, two sacks and two QB hits. He’s attacking more than ever and it’s paying off big-time.
This is the same plan the Dallas Cowboys had with Jaylon heading into the season. With Leighton Vander Esch manning the responsibilities in the middle, Dallas hoped to simplify things for Jaylon. Doing so would highlight his strengths and hide his weaknesses. But that plan went in the trash when LVE broke his collarbone early in Week 1.
The results of which pushed Jaylon back into that old role that made him a liability, and away from the role that could have made him an asset. Make no mistake – Jaylon Smith has been a liability this season. His poor play isn’t just a byproduct of those around him. It’s independently bad. The failures of his teammates don’t help, but they aren’t to solely to blame either.
If you’ve watched Blake Martinez play before, you know he’s not nearly as talented as Jaylon. But watching Martinez’s All-22 this year he looks like a completely different player. He’s playing a role similar to what we hoped Jaylon would be playing.
This should offer hope for when LVE makes his way back (probably two weeks) and reclaims that MIKE spot. It also makes you wonder if the Cowboys would have been better served leaving Jaylon in the role they intended him to be in this year, and deal with LVE’s absence with someone else.
The Dallas Cowboys need their best players playing their best football, and a good way to do that is by putting them in position to succeed. The Giants did that with Blake Martinez and the Cowboys would be wise to take notice.