Dallas Cowboys disappointment No. 2
Jaylon Smith, LB
The MIKE turned WILL turned MIKE again, turned WILL one more time, has been a major disappointment this season. That’s how the Dallas Cowboys greatest comeback story turns into our favorite whipping boy, seemingly overnight.
Jaylon was brilliant in his 2018 season, paving the way to a team-friendly contract extension two seasons early. He backed up that comeback campaign with a stinker in 2019. Injuries across the entire defense last season were thought to be mostly to blame. They forced Jaylon to take up a bigger workload and forced him to overextend himself as a player.
2020 was supposed to be different since Dallas finally invested in the defensive line and were able to roll out a healthy team around him. Leighton Vander Esch was one of those healthy players who was supposed to make things easier on Jaylon. The Dallas Cowboys planned to have LVE and Jaylon switch positions (Jaylon to WILL and LVE to MIKE). This would free Jaylon to attack more and limit his exposure in coverage (specifically the 180 hip-flip middle linebackers do when defending the seam).
Like a lot of things this season, all of the Dallas plans failed to move past the planning stage. LVE got hurt in Week 1 forcing Jaylon back to MIKE. The Dallas interior line failed to occupy blockers and Jaylon was forced to deal with 300 lb offensive linemen again (something all teams want to shield their linebackers from).
But while the excuses for Jaylon are built in yet again, his play on the field is inexcusable. He guesses far too much, over pursues players often, gives up at the first sign of trouble, and struggles to change direction.
He’s second in the NFL in tackles but those tackles are of the lowest possible quality and roughly two-five yards beyond where he should be making them. The Cowboys can cut him as early as this coming offseason, but as I suggested a few weeks ago, cutting him following the 2021 season probably makes the most sense.
Pro Football Focus rates Jaylon Smith as the 42nd rated LB in the NFL right now. It’s safe to say that’s not what Dallas is paying for.