The Dallas Cowboys loss in overtime to the Houston Texans certainly seems like a wasted opportunity for the team. A game that was winnable was squandered away and now the season is definitely teetering on the cliff with the Jacksonville Jaguars headed to town this Sunday. There was a lot to look back on in the game, and most of it was bad for the Cowboys. An anemic offense, a very questionable call by the head coach, it all added up to disappointment. Still, as always, there is some good in a game.
And that good this week comes courtesy of Jaylon Smith. His play in the loss was a redemption for him personally, and for the team for taking a chance on him. He was sublime.
Every Cowboys fan knows the story. Smith was the Godbacker at Notre Dame, a supernatural force that seemed to be everywhere at once. He was headed toward being a Top 10 pick in the draft, then disaster struck in his bowl game. A torn up knee with a tattered nerve would slow him down for two years. The first year was purely spent rehabbing the injury, the second year was spent on the field, but not really resembling the player he was in college.
This year, Smith is finally returning to form, and Sunday night was the final piece of proof. On the evening he had 12 total tackles (six solo), managed to get the team’s only sack, had three tackles for loss and forced two quarterback hurries. One of those hurries resulted in a wildly off-target throw from DeShaun Watson that was picked off by Xavier Woods.
That stat line is the essence of Smith this year, he’s doing it all. He is a force in the running game and is a man with bad intentions when he blitzes. He’s a complete player. While the stat line is a textual representation of his play, the play below is a visual reminder of how far he has come.
That play is the prefect representation of an elite NFL linebacker. Smith seems to be on his way to claiming that title.
Let’s not short his running mate while we’re here. Leighton Vander Esch led the team with 14 tackles (11 solo). In his short time in the NFL, LVE is proving to be more than worthy of his 19th overall draft position. He is becoming a tackling machine. His presence, along with Smith, means the Cowboys can not only live without Sean Lee on the field, they can prosper. The idea of Smith and LVE as a duo leading the Cowboys defense into the future is a very enticing thought.
There is plenty wrong with the Cowboys right now. One thing that is not wrong is the linebacking corps. Jaylon Smith gets the game ball this night for his play not only in the running game and directing the defense, but for his prowess as a pass rusher and spying on DeShaun Watson.