Smith finished the regular season with 121 tackles, four sacks, four passes defended, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, including one for a touchdown. The 23-year-old justified the risk the Cowboys took in the 2016 draft when they selected him early in the second round despite a devastating knee injury that, at the time, seemed to put his career in jeopardy. Smith paired with rookie Leighton Vander Esch to form one of the league's best young linebacking duos, and as long as they can both stay healthy, they should give the Dallas defense a strong core for the foreseeable future.
Smith had nine tackles (six solo) in Thursday's 13-10 win over the Saints. Smith and rookie Leighton Vander Esch -- who generated 19 combined tackles Thursday -- continue to lock down the middle of the Cowboys defense. The 23-year-old is second on the team with 87 tackles (58 solo), and has four sacks and two forced fumbles in 12 games.
Smith hopes to play without a knee brace during the 2018 season, Kate Hairopoulos of The Dallas Morning News reports. Smith recently parted ways with an Ankle Foot Orthosis foot brace that had been used as part of his broader recovery process from the career-threatening knee injury he suffered in his final collegiate game with Notre Dame in January 2016. After sitting out his rookie season with the Cowboys, Smith returned to play all 16 games in 2017 while sporting the brace, accruing 81 tackles, two forced fumbles and a sack. Even if he's still stuck with the brace when Week 1 of the upcoming season kicks off, the mere notion that Smith might be able to play without any extra stabilization offers encouragement that the leg won't be a recurring issue for the youngster throughout his career.
Smith finished the regular season with 81 tackles (50 solo), two passes defended, two forced fumbles and a sack in 16 games. While he had his ups and down as a rookie, it's still impressive that he was able to suit up for all 16 games given that he missed the entire 2016 campaign recovering from the catastrophic knee injury that ended his college career at Notre Dame. Cowboys starting middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens is a free agent, and if Hitchens heads elsewhere Smith could enter 2018 atop the depth chart at the position, a spot that would provide him with some intriguing IDP upside -- especially if he regains more of the elite athleticism he flashed in college with further rehab.
Smith had three tackles (two solo), one sack and a forced fumble Sunday against the 49ers. This marks Smith's first sack and second forced fumble of the season. Although he slots in as a backup, the 22-year-old has logged 44 tackles (23 solo) through six games, making him a decent IDP option and an excellent keeper-league asset.
|1||09/08||New York Giants||28|
|4||09/30||@New Orleans Saints||20|
|5||10/06||Green Bay Packers||2|
|6||10/13||@New York Jets||13|
|9||11/05||@New York Giants||28|
|12||11/24||@New England Patriots||7|
|15||12/15||Los Angeles Rams||29|