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Thread: P. Walker: Cowboys considering moving Jaylon Smith to strong side LB

  1. #1
    One-armed Knife Sharpener Iamtdg's Avatar
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    P. Walker: Cowboys considering moving Jaylon Smith to strong side LB

    Patrik Walker - 68 minutes ago

    This may not be the wisest move, especially with the future of Anthony Hitchens in flux.

    Before it's all said and done, the Dallas Cowboys will have seen more change in 2018 than the cushions of your grandmother's couch.

    From the coaching staff shuffle down to the roster itself, prepare to see a maelstrom of newness this coming season. While the team works to decide if they're willing to stop stalling the progress of defensive back Byron Jones by moving him to cornerback full-time, they're now also considering a shift for linebacker Jaylon Smith. After his miraculous recovery from a devastating injury that shredded ligaments and severely damaged the primary nerve in his knee, Smith was able to make his NFL debut in 2017.

    It was a mixed bag of flashes and missteps, which is much more accountable to the fact he was a redshirt rookie who hadn't played a snap of football in nearly 18 months. Now heading into his first full offseason with no injury or rehab concerns whatsoever, the MIKE (middle LB) is excited to get going for his encore performance, but it could be at the SAM (strong side LB) position instead -- according to head coach Jason Garrett, who spoke on the matter from the 2018 NFL Combine in Indianapolis, IN.

    “We’re really excited about him as a player," Garrett said, via Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "Again, his development has been significant. I think physically he will get better and better as we go. And certainly, he will learn from his experiences.

    "He does have versatility. He can play any of the spots. You want to make sure you give him a chance to succeed. The SAM in our defense is an important spot but there is so much nickel defense being played in the NFL.

    "Often times you only have two linebackers out on the field, so you want to give him more than just that role. He might be a SAM in base but you want to make sure he has a role when we’re playing our two linebacker defense as well.”

    Much of Smith's struggles to open the season was due to the fact he was thrown into the fire too often, given injury to Anthony Hitchens and Sean Lee at the outset of the year. As the two veterans got healthy and returned to the fold, the snap count on Smith was pulled back and his play improved exponentially. It's a fact not lost on Garrett, who admits the initial move wasn't ideal -- albeit necessary.

    "He probably played more than we wanted him to play at the outset of the season," he said. "When Hitch was hurt and then Sean was hurt, he had to play a lot of snaps. He played his best football when his snaps were more limited and situations he was most comfortable, playing next to those guys. You got to remember that he's a rookie and he’s coming off an injury. There are a lot of factors that went into his performance this year.

    "But there’s no doubts in our minds that he got better as it went on and he played best when we had him in that environment where he was most comfortable.”

    Should the Cowboys move Smith to the SAM position, it adds a ton of weight to what ultimately happens with Hitchens in free agency. If the Cowboys can't retain the veteran as they head into a season wherein they'll experiment with Smith outside of the MIKE, they could be creating a bigger problem for themselves while believing they're solving one. The impact of shifting Smith will also undoubtedly play a role in how they build their board for the NFL Draft, because if the aforementioned two variables actually do materialize, the void at linebacker left behind by Hitchens' potential exit would rapidly morph to the size of a crater.

    To that end, if they feel they'll lose Hitchens then don't rule out a potential grab at LB in the first round -- even if that means moving up a few spots to land one to play inside.

    Smith had just begun to dig his heels in at MIKE, and this flux could impede his progress in Year Two as he works to adapt to the shift as opposed to perfecting his role in the middle, where he spent the large majority of 2017.

    The Cowboys truly do love their position flex, but apparently haven't learned when it's best to leave well-enough alone.
    2016 DCC LOTY Fantasy Football Champion

  2. #2
    Senior Member mschmidt64's Avatar
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    Or maybe they think he's more suited, either physically or mentally, at this point, for the lesser rigors of the Sam position than the Mike or Will positions. Starting with not being on the field every down.

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    Senior Member Cowboysrock55's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mschmidt64 View Post
    Or maybe they think he's more suited, either physically or mentally, at this point, for the lesser rigors of the Sam position than the Mike or Will positions. Starting with not being on the field every down.
    If he is still the nickel LB would that change though? The only change would be in our base package. Meaning his snap count would stay about the same.
    Last edited by Cowboysrock55; 03-01-2018 at 03:09 PM.

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    Senior Member Chocolate Lab's Avatar
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    Exactly, Garrett said himself we'd move him to one of the other two LB spots in nickel.

    My question is, I thought some of the thinking during the season was that despite his size and looking the part and all that, Smith wasn't that good at taking on blocks so Will would be better for him where he'd be free to run to the ball.

    But this could all be pre-draft smokescreen anyway.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member Cowboysrock55's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chocolate Lab View Post
    Exactly, Garrett said himself we'd move him to one of the other two LB spots in nickel.

    My question is, I thought some of the thinking during the season was that despite his size and looking the part and all that, Smith wasn't that good at taking on blocks so Will would be better for him where he'd be free to run to the ball.

    But this could all be pre-draft smokescreen anyway.
    It could also just be that we want to blitz him more and that SAM spot in your base package seems like the best spot to blitz from.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Simpleton's Avatar
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    Playing the SAM in base is probably meant to limit his key/diagnose responsibilities, which is what he struggled with often last year, and is most strenuous at MLB. I think he's at his best when he can just run and chase or attack downhill as a blitzer, so WLB would make sense also but Lee is entrenched there right now, if something were to happen to him I'm sure Smith would play some WLB also.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Cowboysrock55's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Simpleton View Post
    Playing the SAM in base is probably meant to limit his key/diagnose responsibilities, which is what he struggled with often last year, and is most strenuous at MLB. I think he's at his best when he can just run and chase or attack downhill as a blitzer, so WLB would make sense also but Lee is entrenched there right now, if something were to happen to him I'm sure Smith would play some WLB also.
    Yeah long term Smith is a Will in this defense in my opinion. He is excellent in coverage too.

    I don't think LBer responsibilities change so much that it's all that hard for a guy to shift from one spot to the other. This isn't like moving a LT to guard, or a corner to safety.

  8. #8
    Administrator boozeman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chocolate Lab View Post

    But this could all be pre-draft smokescreen anyway.


    We are not this clever.

    This means we are moving him to base SOLB. And in Marinelli's scheme it is the least important LB position. They are "hoping" he can play well enough to be considered for one of the two LBers.

    The awesome thing is that now we are either going to have to overpay Hitchens or draft a true MLB in a horrible draft for them.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Simpleton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by boozeman View Post


    We are not this clever.

    This means we are moving him to base SOLB. And in Marinelli's scheme it is the least important LB position. They are "hoping" he can play well enough to be considered for one of the two LBers.

    The awesome thing is that now we are either going to have to overpay Hitchens or draft a true MLB in a horrible draft for them.
    Why do you think this is a terrible LB draft?

    I actually think it's a pretty strong group of off-ball LB types with Smith, Evans, Vander Esch, Jefferson, Jewell, etc.

    They might not all be pure MLB types but I think most of those guys could play it and be fine. If Smith were there at 19 I'd jump at that, and I'd be pretty happy with Evans or Vander Esch as trade down candidates. Then you have guys like Jefferson, Jewell, and DeLuca who would be nice Day 2/early Day 3 picks.

    Anyway, the real solution to this is to sign Tahir Whitehead.

  10. #10
    Administrator boozeman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Simpleton View Post
    Why do you think this is a terrible LB draft?

    I actually think it's a pretty strong group of off-ball LB types with Smith, Evans, Vander Esch, Jefferson, Jewell, etc.

    They might not all be pure MLB types but I think most of those guys could play it and be fine. If Smith were there at 19 I'd jump at that, and I'd be pretty happy with Evans or Vander Esch as trade down candidates. Then you have guys like Jefferson, Jewell, and DeLuca who would be nice Day 2/early Day 3 picks.

    Anyway, the real solution to this is to sign Tahir Whitehead.
    Bad MLB draft. The outside is okay.

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