Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith was never supposed to have to do so much so fast.
When the Cowboys drafted him in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, they had a pretty good idea that he wouldn’t play that season and probably figured he’d have to be worked in slowly in 2017 after a catastrophic knee injury in his final game at Notre Dame. Because of need, he wound up playing 75.6 percent of snaps through five games.
However, with their full expected linebacking corps finally healthy again, the Cowboys have made the decision to dial it back for their leading tackler to this point.
“I don’t see a lot of physical limitations,” Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said according to Clarence Hill, Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “It’s just a lot for a young guy, a rookie, coming in at that position. It’s a lot and the communication and all the things you have – close calls, adjustments – it can wear you out as you go. It’s a lot to it.”
While Marinelli makes it clear that the pitch count isn’t about injury, Smith has been playing through drop foot, a complication of the knee injury, and has used a customized ankle-foot orthotic to help give stability to that joint. Only time will tell if the nerve that controls that action will regenerate itself and give him full range of motion.
So the pitch count may have the added benefit of making sure he isn’t overworking himself and helps aid in his recovery.
Either way, the Cowboys have been gashed against the run in 2017 and, even though he’s lead the team in tackles, Smith has struggled at times during the year. The Cowboys are No. 22 in run defense in 2017, a year removed from fielding the best run defense in the NFL.
They’re hoping getting Anthony Hitchens back out there as the starter along with a healthy Sean Lee on the weak side and Damian Wilson on the strong side will allow them to help plug a leaky run defense.
The post Dallas Cowboys reducing role for rookie LB Jaylon Smith appeared first on All 22.
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