Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith – Measuring Success

Jaylon Smith Ankles

It’s been two years since Norte Dame’s prodigal son Jaylon Smith ripped up his knee in the Fiesta Bowl and subsequently, the Dallas Cowboys selected him in the second round of the NFL Draft a few short weeks later.

The first year was a wash dedicated solely to rehab. The second year saw Smith hit the field, albeit his issues with his wheel were exposed as he had issues changing direction and (of course) the NFL game was giving the young man some trouble as he struggled to find his way working with less physical ability than he was accustomed to.

It’s now year three and many are pointing to this season as the one where the real Jaylon Smith comes to the fore and history is on their side. Jaylon was hurt at the end of the football season. The worst time for such an event in regards to getting a player back on the field and the event a distant memory. From such a catastrophic injury the first season back is often a wash as the player struggles with the new reality of their bodies. Yet often the second year back from injury is a time when a few things coalesce for the player. First, his mental timidity ceases as the athlete once again learns to trust the body part. The importance of this step can’t be overstated. Secondly, the healing process continues and where a cut on the finger fully heals in a few weeks major injuries to critical joint areas often require two or three years to regain full functionality. Such seems to be the case with Jaylon Smith.

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But exactly why are Cowboys coaches and those who are closely following the young man’s recovery currently so excited? Measurable results. Below is a chart with player 40-yard dash and 20 yard shuttle times (where available) of linebackers the Cowboys have been linked to over the last few years and I threw in Von Miller because he’s such a physical freak it helps put things in perspective. The Falcons Deion Jones is especially interesting as he was touted as the new NFL prototypical coverage LB and was available when the Cowboys reached and took Smith.

Player 40 yd dash 20 yd shuttle
Anthony Barr 4.66 sec 4.19 sec
Von Miller 4.53 sec 4.06 sec
Deion Jones 4.59 sec 4.26 sec
Rashaan Evans 4.63 – 4.73 4.36 sec
Ryan Shazier 4.38 – 4.48 4.21 sec
Jaylon Smith 4.56 – 4.67 3.98

Jaylon Smith improved his 20 yard shuttle time from 4.03 in 2017 to 3.98 this season. We don’t have an officially recorded 40 time for Smith at this point. Unofficial times place him in the 4.56 – 4.67 range. Now I love 40 times but give me a player who dominates the 20-yard short shuttle drill any day of the week and Smith just blows everyone out of the water in that regard with only Von Miller and Shazier having a better 40 time.

That is some serious change of direction at a very high rate of speed. Jaylon could only dream about that last season.

So sure, every offseason in the NFL you hear how an injured guy is “doing great”, then you watch as Andrew Luck doesn’t get a snap. Smith played last season however and he’s going to get his snaps this year as well. In the meantime, the kid is demonstrating in a measurable fashion he is quicker, faster and stronger than he was before and more importantly, than his peers. When you throw in the mental tenacity it has taken to stay the course and not beat yourself up in the process this is one IMPRESSIVE individual. You know, a “right kind of guy.”

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Ben Grimaldi wrote a piece recently in which he mentions the Cowboys defense could be dominant this season.

I think he may be onto something.

What say you Sports Nation?

Another Left Coast Sports Post: on Twitter – Steven Van Over

Steven Van Over

Steven Van Over

Senior Analyst, Editor, Photographer, Podcaster at SportsTalkLine
Senior Analyst, Editor, Podcaster & Photographer for @SportsTalkLine Network. Started covering the Cowboys on CowboysNation.com. Moved to the same gig here and now head the NFL desk. Catch me on Twitter @StevenVanOver
Steven Van Over
Steven Van Over
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