While the fanbase and the media continue to call out the play of linebacker Jaylon Smith, Jerry Jones calls him a cornerstone player.
In a season with so many “what if” scenarios, there are a million different directions the Dallas Cowboys can take that evaluation. But one consistent topic of the week has been the play of Jaylon Smith over the first half of the season.
“We don’t have a player out there that doesn’t have things that he doesn’t want to improve on and can be better,” said Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones. “But, boy, I’m glad we got him. He’s one of our cornerstones and he’ll get better and better and better.”
Smith’s level of play has been a hot button issue, to put it mildly, and Jones’ quote encapsulates the point. A simple glance at the stats will tell you that his 89 tackles leads the team and is currently second-best in the entire NFL. And obviously, his $68 million contract makes him one of the more crucial figures on the Dallas defense.
At the same time, some simple tape review confirms that it’s been a bumpy season for Smith. The 2019 Pro Bowler has struggled with assignments and tackling at times. During Sundays’ inspired effort against Pittsburgh, he was hit with two crucial penalties that – while perhaps dubious – helped swing the outcome of the game.
Center Tyler Biadasz makes this list almost by default. But CeeDee Lamb is beat out by Tee Higgins and Justin Jefferson? Trevon Diggs is beat out by A.J. Terrell and Jaylon Johnson.
C TYLER BIADASZ, DALLAS COWBOYS
There have only been two starting centers in this rookie class, and Biadasz has been the better of the two. However, that’s not saying much, as he’s only earned a 53.3 overall grade and allowed multiple pressures in three of his six starts.
Dalton Schultz is going to make things interesting when Blake Jarwin returns in 2021.
In his first start against Atlanta in Week 2, he had career highs in receptions (9) and yards (88) while also recording his first career touchdown. He then had four catches for 72 yards and another score in Week 4 against Cleveland. Coming out of the bye week, he already had 35 grabs for 383 yards overall, both of which were easily personal bests.
Jarwin was signed to a contract extension prior to the 2020 season and is under contract until 2024. Schultz is on his rookie deal that runs through 2021. Based on his first three seasons, he knows it’s best to focus on what happens on the field.
“All I can do is do my best to be ready to take advantage of any opportunity,” Schultz says. “I need to just continue to put in as much work as I can.”
Which if this year is any indication, means the Cowboys’ tight end situation will still be in good hands.
Cowboys at the bye week: Breaking down Dallas’ offense and what we’d like to see moving forward - David Moore, DMN
A look at how the offense has performed and what they need to do going ahead. Here, a highlight of the WR section.
What we expected: That the addition of Lamb would make this arguably the most explosive trio in the league. A 1,000-yard season for each of the top three receivers was more than a dream. It was within reach, especially given a frequent diet of early deficits that forced the Cowboys to the air often.
What happened: This group got off to a fast start. All three made big plays. All three had a good rapport with Prescott. Then he went down, and the chemistry changed. There are games where one or two of these receivers do very little over the course of a game.
What we’d like to see now: The promise of this group isn’t diminished. It’s just that expectations for the moment have been altered. Gallup has really been lost in the shuffle. He needs to get the ball more.
Troy Aikman impressed by Cowboys QB Garrett Gilbert’s starting debut: ‘He looked extremely confident’ - Joey Hayden, DMN
The Cowboys former signal-caller, Troy Aikman, was very impressed with Garrett Gilbert.
“He looked extremely confident, poised, thought he did some really good things. I liked what I saw of him,” former Cowboys quarterback and current Fox broadcaster Troy Aikman said during his weekly appearance with The Musers on 96.7 FM/1310 AM The Ticket [KTCK-AM] on Tuesday.
“I know he’s an older guy, he’s not your typical first-time-to-start age … but yeah I liked what he did. That was not an easy defense to go up against, and yet he hung in there.”
“I had gone and spent a few days in Carolina a few years ago during the offseason, during their OTAs, and Garrett was with Carolina at that time, and had a chance to watch him and his command in the huddle,” Aikman said. “He’s a confident guy. I liked him then. I was actually surprised when he didn’t stay on Carolina’s roster relative to what I had seen those three days in OTAs.
“I know he’s kind of had the hard road – a really acclaimed high school player, bounced around a little bit in college, things didn’t go quite the way he had hoped, they haven’t gone the way I’m sure he had hoped at the NFL level, as well. And I think that with that you develop some toughness and some resilience.”
2020 NFL midseason report: Biggest questions, record projections for all 32 teams - Todd Archer, ESPN
A look ahead to the second half of the season for the Cowboys.
Biggest question left to answer: Who are the defensive pieces to keep around in 2021? The offense will get Prescott, provided he is either given the franchise tag again or signed to a long-term deal, Smith, Collins and tight end Blake Jarwin (knee) back next season, so there is hope it can be a top unit next season. But the Cowboys’ defense has holes everywhere. DeMarcus Lawrence is playing better, but the defensive end needs more sacks. Linebacker Jaylon Smith’s future with the team is in question because of his lack of performance and contract. Free-agents-to-be in the secondary, such as Xavier Woods, Jourdan Lewis and Chidobe Awuzie (who missed time with a hamstring injury), have not impressed. The Cowboys want to keep defensive end Aldon Smith, but he has to show he can play a full season after such a long layoff.
Who is playing for his job in 2021? Coach Mike McCarthy is likely to get a grace period because of how strange this season has been. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan will not. His unit is on pace to allow the most points in a season in franchise history, if not the most ever in an NFL season. The saving grace might be the remaining division games against offensively challenged teams such as the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Football Team. Nolan brought a scheme to the Cowboys that was supposed to adapt to the personnel, but it has not done much of anything right, including stopping the run or creating turnovers. Unless there is a massive turnaround, the entire defensive staff could be in trouble.
NFL Free Agency 2021: An Early Look at Next Year’s Quarterback Carousel - Chris Roling, Bleacher Report
The Dak Prescott situation will be fun once the 2020 season ends.
The Cowboys could be the most shocking team on the quarterback carousel this offseason—or they could be a non-participant.
Prescott is the reason for the wide range of outcomes, and that was the case before a Week 5 ankle injury knocked him out for the remainder of the season.
Dallas hit the 27-year-old with the franchise tag over the offseason, locking in one of the NFL’s best young passers for a season after both parties reportedly disagreed on the number of extension years.
Now it seems like Prescott could get whatever he wants—in Dallas or otherwise. The Cowboys have flopped, going 0-4 without him and his eye-popping output. He completed 68 percent of his passes with 1,856 yards and nine touchdowns over just five games, dragging a historically incompetent defense with him.
But the team’s win-now mode has backfired, and Dallas has roughly $35 million in free cap space for 2021. That’s before any leaguewide adjustments to the cap and what it will cost to keep Prescott. If it’s another tag, it’ll be an escalation on his $31.4 cap hit from this season, and if it’s an extension, it’s a likely comparable number.
Besides the cap situation, add in a 2-7 record likely giving the Cowboys a top-10 draft pick, and to say things are about to get interesting in Dallas would be a massive understatement.
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