When Anthony Hitchens suffered his unfortunate injury in the preseason game against the Oakland Raiders, the inevitable impulse was to wonder about his replacement, namely would it be Jaylon Smith? The Dallas Cowboys had been deliberately bringing Smith along slowly in his recovery from his own knee injury. Now, will that change? Our own RJ Ochoa pondered that very subject on Sunday. Stephen Jones threw cold water on the idea that Smith’s time would be now, saying they wouldn’t change the process.
“We don’t in any way want to get away from the game plan that has worked so well for Jaylon, in terms of his pitch counts and what he’s going to do and don’t want to jeopardize anything that we’ve done with him. But we do think he can certainly share those duties with Justin, and expect both of them to share that Mike position.”
The one reason the Cowboys are “comfortable” with the middle linebacker position is the presence of veteran Justin Durant. The Cowboys have been very slowly bringing Durant up to speed after his late signing, and now he is starting to practice. Still, Smith is being given the first-team reps.
With Anthony Hitchens out, Jaylon Smith took the first-team snaps at middle linebacker. Justin Durant took the second team snaps in the base defense but worked with the top group in the dime package. As of now, they will split the work with Hitchens looking at an eight-week absence with a knee injury.
In today’s practice, Smith was working with the first team in the nickel.
1st-team nickel linebackers: Jaylon Smith and Sean Lee— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) August 29, 2017
2nd-team nickel linebackers: Jaylon Smith and Damien Wilson
We still don’t know how much they will split the reps going forward, one could see Durant getting more and more time as he gets more into the groove. But, Jerry Jones has now seem to float the idea that Jaylon’s process will be accelerated.
Jerry Jones resisted calling Smith the starter and said that the team views Smith and Justin Durant as “one player” in terms of replacing Hitchens in the lineup, but added that Smith should be ready for more work than he would have gotten if Hitchens were healthy.
“I think the start word is one I’d be careful with,” Jones said. “It could be, but it definitely will cause him to have an accelerated approach to how this year starts for him. So, yes I think it’s going to be more activity, more snaps for him right off the bat.”
So BTB, what’s your take. Will Jaylon Smith be the main middle linebacker at the start of the season?