After the victory against the Giants, the Cowboys’ Stephen Jones stopped by Sean Lee’s locker to congratulate him on an excellent performance. Dallas’ executive vice president has just about to start talking, but he got interrupted by the Pro Bowl linebacker with the question: “What about that Jaylon Smith?”
What about Smith? Well, he returned after what might have been a career-ending injury and played a fantastic game against the New York Giants in the opening week. In January last year, Smith shredded his knee in his final college game for Notre Dame at the Fiesta Bowl. Four months ago, he told the press that he would be able to play in the season opener for the Cowboys, even though many people were skeptical.
Smith proved them wrong and not only did he play, but he was one of the key figures on the defensive end. “The real is back,” Smith said as he made his way to the Dallas locker room after the 19-3 win. “I’m back.”
The coaching staff developed a plan that called for rotation between Smith and veteran linebacker Justin Durant. Smith was going to be the primary middle linebacker in the base defense whereas Durant was going to come in on third-down packages. However, the Giants had only 19 plays in the first 30 minutes of the game, and Smith was doing everything for the Cowboys.
In the end, Smith was on the field 36/53 defensive snaps, whereas Durant was on the field only twice. Head coach Garrett said: “That’s just the way it played out,” but there is much more to that. Smith was on fire, and he finished the match with seven tackles and a forced fumble.
“He was handling the work really well,” Garrett added. “He was very active in the game. He was around the ball a lot. He was physical, forced the fumble, made a lot of tackles and just seemed to handle the work really well.”