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Cowboys news: Why Dallas expects big things from third-year linebacker Jaylon Smith

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NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Now that Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith says he's feeling 'more free,' what can he accomplish in 2018? - Jori Epstein, SportsDay
Throughout OTAS, Smith hasn't worn the ankle-foot orthosis (AFO) he wore all last season. And it looks like he's ditched it permanently as he continues to recover from his knee injury.

2018 outlook: More than two years have now passed since Smith suffered a gruesome knee injury in his bowl game with Notre Dame, precipitating his drop from a top pick to the second round. And Smith is optimistic about both his physical and mental improvements to his game this offseason. He's dropped to 3.5 percent body fat, bulked up 8 pounds of muscle and taken up yoga for flexibility, he said at OTAs. Coaches say he's moving more naturally in practice. Pair that with a season of scheme under his belt, and Smith's feeling confident - and "more free," he said, "being able to move truly, if you will." He's projected to start at strongside linebacker beside veteran Sean Lee and first-round rookie Leighton Vander Esch.

Is 2018 Jaylon Smith’s breakout season? - Stephen Forsha,

It was widely reported earlier this offseason that the Cowboys were going to move Smith to SAM, but for some reason this article has him moving to MLB this year.

Overall, with Smith’s play in 2017, it is tough to say he didn’t play well because he did, for all the obstacles he had placed in front of him since joining the Cowboys. Smith did well, and this upcoming season, one can most likely expect even more from the linebacker as he not only seems fully recovered from his injury, but he’ll be without the brace on his leg as well.

This upcoming season will also be very interesting to watch for Smith for yet another reason, as he’ll move to middle linebacker from the outside linebacker spot he played at last season. Playing with Sean Lee and rookie Leighton Vander Esch should bring a lot of excitement from the linebacker position for the Cowboys, with Vander Esch still being a mystery as he’s yet to take an NFL snap.

As Cowboys fans, we sometimes take the team website at for granted, so today the fine folks at the mothership get a special shout out from us for their quality work that’s receiving well-earned recognition. Best in the business.

Poll: Predict the Cowboys’ record for 2018 - Blogging The Boys
Wonder how your fellow fans think the 2018 season will turn out for the Cowboys? Here are the results of yesterday's poll, which is still open for voting.

Giants 2018 opponents: Are the Dallas Cowboys a playoff team? - Dan Pizzuta, Big Blue View
Our sister site asks the all-important question and goes to Dave Halprin for some answers.

Q: If you had to predict a regular season record, what would it be?

Halprin: I’m an eternal optimist, although I also try to deal in reality. Still it is the offseason, a time when all teams have hope, so I’m going to go on the positive side of expectations and predict a 10-6 record and a playoff spot. After all, everybody thinks the Cowboys had a down year in 2017, and they still managed a 9-7 record.

Sherrington: Why to take the over on the Cowboys this year - SportsDay Staff
In a recent chat, Kevin Sherrington, sports columnist for and The Dallas Morning News, suggests you take the over on Cowboys win projections this year.

Q: Cowboys wins in 2018: You taking the over or the under? (8.5)

Kevin Sherrington: Over, for sure. I think this will be a better team, as long as the key pieces remain healthy. I'm saying 11 wins.

Jason Garrett dropped on’s power rankings of head coaches - RJ Ochoa, Blogging The Boys

Ochoa breaks down why Jason Garrett took a light fall on’s coaching power rankings.

A few things stick out. First of all you’ll quickly notice that Sean McVay, who won COTY in 2017, followed in Garrett’s footsteps from a year ago and found himself in that #13 slot as a result. That’s interesting.

Doug Pederson showed what a brilliant mind he has by defeating the top-ranked coach in Super Bowl LII. Those are some big names in front of him, save for maybe Mike McCarthy, but it’s still jarring to see the reigning champion so low.

Speaking of Mike McCarthy, he only fell three spots (third to sixth) despite showing a complete inability to win football games without Aaron Rodgers. Fans everywhere chastised Jason Garrett (rightfully so) when the Cowboys were, what’s the word, lethargic without Tony Romo... Mike McCarthy should have to answer for his team’s stagnation.

Finally, Jon Gruden comes back into coaching after a ten-year absence, makes a bunch of questionable offseason moves, and is ranked 9th? 9th?! I don’t get it.

These two years are interesting sample sizes in proving that Jason Garrett is sort of right in the middle of the pack when it comes to head coaches. Hopefully he climbs the ladder a bit more this season.

Where does Jason Garrett stand? - Steven Mullenax, The Landry Hat

Is Jason Garrett on the way out of Dallas? Some interesting points for both sides of the argument.

Is Garrett one bad season away from being fired? I’m sure some fans hope so. But it’s also about options. Is there a better head coach available who is willing to work under Jones? They answer is usually no.

At this point, it’s anyone’s guess were Jason Garrett stands as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Clearly, the results have been lackluster. But Jerry Jones clearly believes in Garrett and has given him plenty of chances to prove himself. Every time it appears the former quarterback is in danger of losing his job, the Cowboys seem to exceed expectations. Will they follow that pattern and do so again in 2018?

Cowboys TEs coach Doug Nussmeier ditched LSU for the Dallas job - SportsDay Staff
Here's something you may not have known about coach Nussmeier.

Before he was hired by the Cowboys in February, Nussmeier had plans to join LSU as an offensive analyst for the 2018 season. But when Dallas came calling, Nussmeier decided to pack up and move to Texas.

Cole Beasley will be a critical component of the Cowboys’ post-Dez Bryant passing game - SportsDay Staff

SportsDay answers a few mailbag questions sent in from Cowboys fans. Here are some of the highlights from the mailbag.

Q: How are the Cowboys creating a Dak friendly offense with a receiver group that has to be -- at least on paper -- among the worst in the NFL? Won’t teams load up vs the run -- even more than last year?

Machota: As Jason Garrett would say, your point is well made.

On paper, it doesn’t look like a better group than they’ve had. Dallas’ Dak-friendly hope is that he is better spreading the ball around. Their offseason moves show that they thought focusing on getting Dez the ball wasn’t the best thing for Dak’s development.

[Prescott] has pointed out several times this offseason that he’s at his best spreading the ball around to eight or nine different receivers.

I think the biggest difference you’ll see is that there will be more four-wide packages with Jason Witten no longer on the team. They’ll spread teams out more by putting Cole Beasley and Tavon Austin on the field at the same time. That should open some things up underneath and give Dak some high percentage short throws that could turn into big gains.

Here’s another quote that was really interesting from the mailbag.

Q: What does Dak need to do to rekindle his chemistry with Cole Beasley?

Machota: I don’t think the chemistry was lost. There was just more emphasis last season on having Dak build his chemistry with Dez.

For me, Cole is the favorite to lead the team in receptions this season. I’m sure other teams feel the same, meaning they’ll go out of their way to take him away. But expect Dak to be looking his direction early on just about every passing play this season.

Ranking the Cowboys' roster, Nos. 10-1: Who is Dallas' most valuable player? - Jon Machota, SportsDay
Machota reveals his top ten most valuable Cowboys players. Most of the names on the list were to be expected, even if it is odd to see the quarterback ranked so low.

7.) Dak Prescott, QB. There were struggles in his second season, particularly when Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith weren't on the field. After throwing only four interceptions as a rookie, Prescott threw 13 in Year 2. With Elliott no longer facing suspension and Smith healthy, the Cowboys believe Prescott will look more like he did in 2016, when he led Dallas to the playoffs and won Rookie of the Year.

Bailey The Biggest Bounce-Back Candidate? - Staff
Is Bailey ready to bounce back in 2018? The mothership staff all weigh in on the topic. Here's David Helman's take:

Call me an optimist if you want to, but I’m not overly worried about Dan Bailey. He struggled through the final month of the season after dealing with injuries, but he has been good enough for long enough that I trust him to re-discover his old form. For me, I think my bounce-back guy needs to be Cole Beasley. It made such a difference for Dak Prescott when Beasley was facing favorable coverages in 2016, finishing with 75 catches on the year. When Beasley was taken away by opponents last year, Dak struggled to find other options. Beasley doesn’t need to do everything himself, but it would make a huge difference if he can carry more of the load.

Mailbag: Confident Starting Connor Williams? - Bryan Broaddus,

Broaddus speaks on his confidence level for Cowboys second-round pick Connor Williams.

Q: I keep hearing about Connor Williams’ athletic ability. To be honest I hear that and think finesse. To paraphrase Nate from Hangin With The Boys, I don’t care if you can jump on top of a skyscraper. Can you line up and mash the face of the man in front of you?

Bryan: Connor Williams is a very athletic player but if you do study his game while at Texas, there is some finish to him. I didn’t have a problem with his toughness, but where I did have a problem is there were snaps where he lacked some upper body power.

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