It has been almost three years since linebacker Jaylon Smith went down with one of the most horrific knee injuries imaginable. Smith, playing for Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, tore his ACL and LCL in his left knee, as well as suffering nerve damage. Despite the severity of the injuries, he was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the second round of the 2016 draft.
The road to recovery was a long and arduous one. There were initial fears he would never walk again, let alone make 81 total tackles in 2017. Now in his second season with the Cowboys, Smith is a leader of men on a defense full of talented players.
His hunger to chase the man with the football is something you cannot teach. This was evident in week five when he chased Houston Texans quarterback DeShaun Watson across the field before knocking him out of bounds to stop a touchdown. Moments like this help to lift those players around you.
RT @StevenVanOver: #Cowboys D digs in and MLB Jaylon Smith makes a HUGE play at the goal line on 4th down keeping the game in touch at the 1/2 #DALvsHOU 6-10 #CowboysNation pic.twitter.com/ZBNK5j1lDB https://t.co/BiP78H7H0C
— Steven Van Over (@StevenVanOver) October 8, 2018
This is not a stand-alone occurrence. This is Jaylon Smith.
Through the first six games of 2018, Smith has amassed 31 solo tackles and 19 assists for a total of 50 tackles. Throw in three sacks and he is well ahead of his 2017 season; those are Pro Bowl numbers.
First-round pick Leighton Vander Esch is the only player on the Cowboys' defense who is driving more men into the turf than Smith. The Cowboys' defense has man-handled their last two opponents in the Texans and the Jacksonville Jaguars. This weeks match-up against the division rival Washington Redskins will be one of their toughest challenges thus far.
The rivalry between these two teams dates back to October 1960. The Cowboys hold a commanding lead of 70-44-2, but this Redskins team is unpredictable. New quarterback Alex Smith has guided the Redskins into first place in the NFC East after beating the Carolina Panthers last Sunday. They will want to extend their lead in the division over the resurgent Cowboys.
Look for the moment on third down when Jaylon Smith rolls around his man, accelerates, and hones in on Smith, or Adrian Peterson. It's enough to give any quarterback in the league nightmares. This nightmare will become a reality for the Redskins on Sunday.
Jaylon Smith has found himself a home on the Dallas defense and will be a force for years to come. This is a credit to the drive and determination of a young man who just loves to play football.