Cowboys’ Jaylon Smith confident he’ll play Week One

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When the Cowboys open the season against the Giants on Sunday Night Football, Dallas middle linebacker Jaylon Smith is confident he’ll be on the field.

Smith played in a team-organized golf tournament today and told reporters on the course that he’s in good shape and expects to play in the Cowboys’ September 10 season opener.

Still, there are reasons to be concerned, namely that Smith is still wearing a knee brace and is unsure whether his nerve damage will ever heal sufficiently that he can play without it. But Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says Smith is ready for organized team activities.

“Jaylon will be practicing,” Jones said. “What we want to do is keep him fresh. We’ll probably alternate days with him. When we get to those OTAs, you’ll probably see him every other day.”

If Smith can get on the field in pads at OTAs, that’s the strongest sign yet that he can, indeed, get on the field for real in Week One, a year and a half after suffering a gruesome injury in the last game of his college career.

Jaylon Smith’s progress is steady, but Cowboys are patient

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Step by step, Jaylon Smith is getting closer to beginning his NFL career in earnest.

The second-year Cowboys linebacker, who didn’t play last season after blowing out his knee and suffering nerve damage in Notre Dame’s bowl game, continues to do a little more during the team’s offseason program.

“It seemed like he handled the work well last week, and he’s just done an amazing job right from the start with his rehab taking it day by day, making progress and we’ll continue to do that,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said, via Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “If he takes that approach, that’s when he’s going to have his most success. That’s what he’s done up to this point.”

Smith is eligible to take part in next weekend’s rookie minicamp, but Garrett said they don’t want to push him too fast by throwing him out there with the draft picks and tryout players. But he will continue to do work with the rest of the team during the week.

“He’s going to do the veteran stuff on the field on Tuesday and Thursday, so I don’t anticipate him doing a lot on the field over the weekend,” Garrett said. “But he’ll go through the meetings and the walk-throughs [during the three-day minicamp].”

It’s a good start for Smith, since they knew last year was a red-shirt season for him. So they might as well continue being patient, since they think he could become a key piece of a defense once-or-if he returns to his college form.

Dak Prescott: We just scratched the surface last year

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At this time last year, Dak Prescott was expected to be an observer during his rookie season with the Cowboys after being selected in the fourth round of the draft.

A lot happened over the last 12 months. Tony Romo broke a bone in his back, opening the door for Prescott to take over as the starting quarterback and the Cowboys would go on to win 13 games in the regular season with Prescott and fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott in leading roles. Prescott completed nearly 68 percent of his passes, threw 23 touchdown passes against four interceptions and wound up being chosen as the league’s top offensive rookie by the Associated Press.

The season ended with a painful playoff loss to the Packers, but the entire package set a high bar for Dallas heading into the 2017 season. Prescott told Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News that the team is just getting started, however.

“In Year One we just scratched the surface,” Prescott said. “We’re just getting started. I know we’ve been hitting these [offseason] workouts, and we’re just excited for what we can be as a team.”

The Cowboys re-signed wide receiver Terrance Williams, which leaves replacing right tackle Doug Free as the most significant issue on offense. The defense saw bigger changes in free agency and the Cowboys hope some of the seven draft picks they used on defensive players (and perhaps 2016 second-round linebacker Jaylon Smith as well) can fill in the holes.

It’s probably too much too hope that one will be a defensive version of Prescott or Elliott, but they may not need one if their encore does go as well as the first act.

Saquon Barkley won’t rule out skipping bowl game

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College football players are starting to make business decisions. Which is good news, because everyone else connected to college football makes business decisions (especially since they all get paid for doing business with college football).

Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, who rushed for 1,496 yards in 2016, recently addressed the issue with Pete Thamel of SI.com. During a four-minute answer, Barkley (per Thamel) changed his mind on the fly, before finally saying this: “I would have a hard time doing it. But I’m not going to sit here and say I would never do it. I don’t know. I could be in a situation next year where I have close to two broken ankles, God forbid, or something going on in my upper body and I can’t play in a game if I’m considering playing in the NFL.”

Of course, now that what was once speculation has become a full-blown thing, with guys like Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey skipping bowl games and still going in the top 10 (and with guys like Jaylon Smith and Jake Butt playing and blowing out their knees), college football coaches who successfully recruited these players into their programs will be trying their best to recruit them to finish the job. Including Barkley’s coach.

“I don’t mean this as a knock to any of these guys, but especially at the running back position, you didn’t get there by yourself,” Penn State coach James Franklin told Thamel. “Those offensive linemen had a big part of your success. Those tight ends and quarterbacks had a big part of your success.”

That’s all true, but once a guy emerges as a player who will be earning a lot of money in the NFL (far more than the zero dollars and zero cents he earns in college), he needs to think about himself. College football coaches, who hopscotch from program to program (like Franklin did from Vanderbilt to Penn State) always think about themselves, ignoring that the offensive linemen, tight ends, quarterbacks, running backs, defensive players, specialists, and all other coaches on the staff “had a big part of your success.”

Of course, that won’t matter when the recruiting tools get directed back to players who are realizing that they have the power to walk away from the program whenever they choose. As to Barkley, who seems to be willing to make a business decision (however it turns out), there’s another business decision he should consider making right now, based on the experiences of guys like star running back Marcus Lattimore, who shredded his knee during a final season at South Carolina: With the NFL not allowing Barkley into the draft until next year, should Barkley skip not just the bowl game but the whole season?

However Barkley resolves that business decision is Barkley’s business. But every player with clear NFL potential that becomes obvious before the NFL will welcome him to the next level needs to make that decision. Millions of dollars are riding on the outcome of the risk-reward balance that every great college football player will face, and after giving the program a year or two of mostly free service, the player owes it to himself and his family to make the affirmative and conscious decision to stay or to go, even if he can’t go to the NFL for a full year.

Cowboys expect Jaylon Smith to take part in rookie minicamp

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The Cowboys will get first-round pass rusher Taco Charlton and the rest of their 2017 draft class on the field at a rookie minicamp in a couple of weeks, but they won’t be the only players getting their first taste of on-field work during the session.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Friday, via Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, that 2016 second-round pick Jaylon Smith will also participate. The linebacker did not play at all as a rookie because of a severe knee injury that also caused nerve damage and created doubt about his ability to play again, but this is the latest in a series of signs that he may be in the mix for Dallas this year.

Executive vice president Stephen Jones said last week that Smith is making “great improvements” and said this week that there’s hope Smith’s nerve will “really start to have full regeneration as we close in on the season.”

Smith’s play at Notre Dame led to top of the first round projections before his injury. It won’t be clear for some time if Smith is still that kind of player, but even a somewhat diminished version could be a boost to the Dallas defense.

Tuesday morning one-liners

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Mike Gillislee’s departure opens up a bigger role for RB Jonathan Williams with the Bills.

A look at all the players who visited with the Dolphins in the pre-draft process.

The Patriots’ offseason moves de-emphasized the draft.

The Jets aren’t saying if they will pick up S Calvin Pryor’s option for the 2018 season.

What’s on the line for the Ravens in this year’s draft?

Assessing whether Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon will land with Bengals.

If the Browns don’t draft Myles Garrett with the No. 1 pick, what defensive players could they get at No. 12?

The Steelers could add competition at inside linebacker in the draft.

Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins won’t be watching the draft.

Will the Colts roll the dice on players with character risks?

Five things the Jaguars need for a successful 2017 season.

Said Titans RB DeMarco Murray to the incoming rookie class, “Nothing is going to be given to you, no matter what you did in college, no matter how many yards, records you’ve broken, what kind of guy you were, all of that.”

Broncos G.M. John Elway said it is a deep tight end class in this year’s draft.

A look at the Chiefs’ draft-day trades under G.M. John Dorsey.

Some inside linebacker possibilities for the Raiders.

Said Chargers G.M. Tom Telesco of drafting a quarterback, “We’ve done that same amount of work this year.  Whether it lines up in this draft or not, I don’t really know.  Whether it lines up in next year’s draft in 2018 or 2019, I don’t really know.  But I know we’ll be prepared with the work we’ve done in case that arises.”

Not everyone is buying what the Cowboys are selling regarding LB Jaylon Smith.

Giants WR Odell Beckham responded to the team picking up his 2018 option.

S Malcolm Jenkins would like to see the Eagles add another Ohio State player.

Will the Redskins improve their defense in this year’s draft?

Making 13 cases for the Bears drafting a quarterback at No. 3.

This year’s running back class looks like a good one for the Lions.

The Packers may be adding to the defensive line again.

Running through the biggest draft steals in Vikings history.

Falcons WR Mohamed Sanu got a nice note after a recent flight.

Edge rusher prospects for the Panthers to consider.

A vote for the Saints taking Tennessee DE Derek Barnett in the first round.

Linebacker isn’t a big draft need for the Buccaneers.

With compensatory picks expected in 2018, the Cardinals could use some of next year’s picks to move up this year.

Jackie Slater and Jack Youngblood will be involved with the Rams’ draft festivities.

49ers G.M. John Lynch finds value in mock drafts.

Germain Ifedi is happy to be back at right tackle for the Seahawks.

Cowboys “more fired up than ever” about Jaylon Smith

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In every draft there are players selected by teams that hope they can overcome injuries that cloud their future and become productive players for years to come.

The Cowboys took one of those players in the 2016 draft when they selected linebacker Jaylon Smith in the second round. Smith suffered a severe knee injury that caused nerve problems in his final college game and missed all of his rookie season while rehabbing. That was what the Cowboys expected, but they believe things can be different this year.

During a Friday appearance on 105.3 The Fan, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said that Smith should be ready for OTAs and minicamp this year and that the team still has high hopes for his future with the franchise.

“He’s doing great,” Jones said, via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. “He’s making great improvements. We’re more fired up than ever we picked him last year.”

The Cowboys are expected to add more defensive help in the draft next week, but, based on what Smith did at Notre Dame when healthy, the biggest addition to their lineup could already be on hand.

Tuesday morning one-liners

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Making a case for the Bills drafting Pittsburgh QB Nathan Peterman.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has been a big donor to the University of Michigan and would love to see the team draft some players from Ann Arbor.

The addition of WR Brandin Cooks and CB Stephon Gilmore excites Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

LaVar Ball, the outspoken father of UCLA basketball star Lonzo Ball, went to camp trying to make the Jets a couple of times in the 1990s.

The Ravens may be done adding free agents until after the draft.

Would the Bengals take a wide receiver with the ninth pick in the draft?

Browns owner Jimmy Haslam termed the team’s offer to WR Terrelle Pryor before he left an “extremely fair” one.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin identified the team’s defensive needs as cornerback and outside linebacker.

It seemed obvious, but Texans owner Bob McNair confirmed the team will look to add a quarterback to the roster.

The Colts’ work to upgrade their pass rush got some positive recognition.

Will this year’s free agency haul work out better for the Jaguars on the field than past ones?

The path of Titans QB Marcus Mariota’s recovery from a broken leg continues to be a positive one.

Broncos S Justin Simmons made a huge play last year by jumping the line on an extra point attempt and isn’t in favor of losing the option to do it again.

Chiefs owner Clark Hunt said it was a sad day when the team released RB Jamaal Charles.

A range of reactions to the news that the Raiders are going to Las Vegas.

The Chargers announced the dates for their offseason work.

LB Jaylon Smith’s return to the field is something the Cowboys still hope to see.

Giants WR Brandon Marshall will join QB Eli Manning at Duke for workouts in early April.

Should the Eagles trade WR Jordan Matthews?

Will coach Jay Gruden have a bigger role in Redskins personnel decisions?

Bears G.M. Ryan Pace meets the media on Tuesday.

The Lions expect to have contract talks with DE Ziggy Ansah.

Said Packers G.M. Ted Thompson of TE Martellus Bennett, “We like what he brings to the equation. He seems to be excited about being there, so we’re happy to have him.”

A list of prospects who have met with the Vikings leading up to the draft.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn is still working on getting past the Super Bowl loss.

Have the Panthers improved the most in the NFC South this offseason?

Former Saints RB Deuce McAllister is consulting with a high school athletic department.

Buccaneers G.M. Jason Licht said he doesn’t think he’ll ever be risk averse in the draft.

Will the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas impact the Cardinals?

Rams COO Kevin Demoff is full of optimism about the team’s second year in Los Angeles.

RB DuJuan Harris became the second player to re-sign with the 49ers after hitting free agency.

Trevone Boykin’s arrest could lead to a change at backup quarterback for the Seahawks.

Stephen Jones bullish on outlook for Jaylon Smith

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The Dallas Cowboys certainly had some optimism that Jaylon Smith would eventually be able to play for them when they used a second-round draft pick to select him last year. Smith missed his entire rookie season while recovering from a significant knee injury that left him with nerve damage and an uncertain future.

Executive vice president Stephen Jones has been one of the most optimistic entities within the Cowboys over Smith’s potential to contribute in Dallas this season. Ahead of the start of the NFL combine on Wednesday, Jones expressed his belief that Smith can play with the necessary brace and be an effective player for the Cowboys.

We think he’s going to be real effective, but how effective remains to be seen, and that’s why I think it’s difficult to say, ‘Well, we expect him to be the dominant player he was at Notre Dame.’ That’s probably high expectations. Is it possible? Absolutely,” Jones said, via Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Smith’s knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl for Notre Dame left him with a torn ACL and MCL. The damage to his peroneal nerve left him with a condition called “drop foot,” which affects his ability to lift his foot at the ankle. Smith has said the nerve has begun to regenerate and he is getting increased feeling back in his foot.

With his improvement, Jones expects that Smith will be able to contribute for the Cowboys this season.

“I think the sky’s the limit,” Jones said. “I think he’s got a great opportunity, if he keeps on his current path, to be a dominant player for us. Now to say I expect that when he’s not there yet? That’s tough to have that expectation. But I think we do expect him to contribute and be a big part of our defense this year. The question is how physically well he gets by the start of next season in terms of some of what he still has hampering him somewhat. But our guys are convinced he can play in his current condition, and it should only improve as we go.”

Thursday morning one-liners

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With the tag window open, the Bills have a decision to make on CB Stephon Gilmore.

The transition tag could come into play for the Dolphins.

The first offseason job for the Patriots is getting TE Rob Gronkowski well again.

Is Rex still screwing things up for Jets owner Woody Johnson?

Another speedy WR could be a fit with the Ravens in round one.

The Bengals aren’t really into the whole franchise tag scene.

One analyst thinks there’s no QB worth the Browns taking No. 1 overall.

Determining the market for Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell is tricky.

Count the Texans among the teams unlikely to use the franchise tag.

The Colts secondary should look dramatically different.

The Jaguars worked on their depth yesterday.

The Titans don’t want to be reality TV stars.

Broncos C Matt Paradis had successful surgery on his other hip.

The Chiefs must trust Tyler Bray, or have a Plan B in mind.

Chargers OT Chris Hairston still wants to thank San Diego.

The Raiders don’t really have anyone to play tag with.

Another day, another workout video for Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith.

RB Adrian Peterson keeps making eyes at the Giants.

Basically, you can ask if the Eagles are interested in every WR in the world.

Is Washington paralyzed by the fear of making the wrong choice on QB Kirk Cousins.

The Jay Cutler era should change the way the Bears view QBs.

The Lions are thinking Super Bowl, sort of.

A look at the legacies of a few recent former Packers.

A look at the Vikings’ 19 free agents.

The Falcons’ trade history has been mixed.

A Q and A with outgoing Panthers president Danny Morrison.

The Saints have a rare year of offseason peace with QB Drew Brees.

The Buccaneers are in position to add to speedy WR help.

It’s just a matter of time before the Cardinals tag Chandler Jones.

New Rams coordinator Wade Phillips is the master of quick turnarounds.

49ers RB Carlos Hyde is still a “work in progress,” according to his old coach.

A glut of starting LTs in free agency is good news for the Seahawks.

Jerry Jones wants to add a war daddy on defense

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Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett is from Arlington, Texas and he’s made it clear that he’d love to stay home to play for the Cowboys on the professional level.

Garrett may not be around for the second pick of the draft, which would mean that the Cowboys would have to pay a pretty penny to guarantee themselves a shot at plugging Garrett into their defensive front. That may not be a likely outcome, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones isn’t keeping a secret when it comes to his hopes of finding a disruptive player for the 2017 season.

“If I have a chance to bring one of these premiere pass rushers, one of these war daddies that takes two to block, if I have a chance to get a player like that – I would … it’s not a question of that,” Jones said on “J Dub City” on ESPN Dallas 103.3, via the Dallas Morning News. “It’s a question of where is he? And who gives him up if he’s a veteran, or where is he in the draft, or where is he anywhere? So, yeah we do need pressure. We’re going to try to do something about it.”

The Cowboys could add one intriguing prospect to their defense if linebacker Jaylon Smith is healthy enough to get back on the field and the offseason figures to be devoted to finding others given the shape they’re in on the other side of the ball.

Jaylon Smith posts workout videos showing change of direction

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The Cowboys knew when they drafted linebacker Jaylon Smith last year it was a long-term investment.

But he’s showing signs that he may be close to providing a return.

Via Todd Archer of ESPN.com, the former Notre Dame linebacker posted some workout videos that show some good progress from the knee injury and nerve damage that kept him from playing in 2016.

The videos show him doing some change of direction drills, though he’s still wearing a brace on his foot for support while the nerve damage continues to heal.

The 34th overall pick in 2016, Smith spent the year on the non-football injury list.

More optimism around Jaylon Smith in Dallas

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Although an injury in his last college game forced him to miss his entire rookie season in 2016, the Cowboys remain optimistic that linebacker Jaylon Smith will have a significant impact in 2017.

Smith, whose knee injury while playing for Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl was viewed as so severe it could end his career, is running and cutting, according to Todd Archer of ESPN. Although Smith is wearing a brace on his injured knee, it’s a brace he’d be able to play in if necessary.

The Cowboys’ team doctor performed Smith’s knee surgery, and they have always believed he’d eventually become the kind of player in college, when he was discussed as a potential first overall pick in the draft. Cowboys executive Stephen Jones even said he thinks Smith could end up being a better player than the Cowboys’ two rookie of the year candidates, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott.

Smith won’t be eligible for the rookie of the year award next year, but that’s the kind of player the Cowboys think he can be.

Stephen Jones talks up Jaylon Smith, other Cowboys rookies

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The Cowboys are the NFC’s No. 1 seed and open the playoffs Sunday, and rookie quarterback Dak Prescott and rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott are among the team’s headliners.

The team’s second-round pick, linebacker Jaylon Smith, won’t make his NFL debut until next fall due to a knee injury he suffered in Jan. 2016. But Cowboys COO Stephen Jones told Albert Breer of MMQB.com that the team strongly believes Smith will make the team’s 2016 rookie class even better than it already is.

“I mean, this is a guy who may end up being — and you’re gonna shake your head when I say this — but he could end up being the best of all of [the rookies],” Jones said of Smith. “He is special both on and off the field.”

In addition to Elliott and Prescott, two other Cowboys rookies have become regular starters. Jones said he and assistant director of player personnel Will McClay have studied both their hits and misses from last year as they’ve ramped up preparations for the 2017 draft and admitted that they’ve asked themsleves, among other things, how they took defensive end Charles Tapper 34 picks before they took Prescott.

Their confidence is clearly high, and the Cowboys know they’re three wins from their 2016 draft class achieving immortality — even before we know whether Jones will be right about Smith.

“One of the best draft classes I still think about was the one with Bill [Parcells, in 2005], when we took DeMarcus Ware, Marcus Spears, and [Jay] Ratliff, and [Kevin] Burnett, [Chris] Canty, and [Marion] Barber,” Jones said. “I mean, that was an all-timer. Now, does this draft have a chance to challenge all the great drafts we’ve had? Of course it does.

“But I think it’s too early to give a grade to this class. They’re off to an amazing start, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

Jaylon Smith optimistic he can play for Cowboys next year

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Dallas Cowboys rookie linebacker Jaylon Smith didn’t ever step foot on a practice field this year after a catastrophic knee injury suffered in last year’s Fiesta Bowl with Notre Dame left him with nerve damage and an uncertain football future.

He’s hoping that 2017 presents the opportunity to get on the field with the Cowboys for the time.

According to Todd Archer of ESPN.com, Smith says his damaged nerves have been regenerating and he’s experienced increased feeling in his foot a year after his injury.

I’m getting my 4.4 speed back, I’ll tell you that,” Smith said. “That’s how well I’m moving. You wouldn’t be able to tell if you saw me run.”

Smith spent the entire season on Dallas’ non-football injury list. The Cowboys could have let him practice during a three-week window in midseason but didn’t chance it as he continues to recover from the injury. Despite the injury concerns, the Cowboys elected to use a second round pick to draft him last April.

His first chance to get back on the field with Dallas will be in OTAs in May.