Smith racked up a team-leading 10 tackles in Sunday night's win over the Giants.
His huge hit on Eli Manning in the red zone will make a lot of Cowboys' highlight reels at the end of the 2018 season, but in the here and now, Smith's IDP is soaring. He has 14 tackles, including a sack, through two games to Sean Lee's nine, and it looks like the torch is being passed as the leader of the Dallas defense to the younger linebacker.
Smith recorded four tackles (three solo) and a sack across 62 defensive snaps in Sunday's loss to the Panthers.
Smith still may not be 100 percent healthy as he is coming off a recovery process stemming from a career-threatening knee injury he suffered in his final collegiate game with Notre Dame in January 2016, but he is showing increased mobility as time goes on. His next task, taking on the Giants Sunday night.
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 is no longer wearing an AFO brace on his drop foot, Clarence Hill Jr. of The Forth Worth Star-Telegram reports.
Smith had been wearing the brace to stabilize his foot as he worked his way back through recovery from his knee injury and nerve damage. He hasn't been wearing the brace at all during the offseason, a sign of his continually improving health since his knee injury in January of 2016.
Smith may shift to strong-side linebacker in the Cowboys' base defense after the team used a first-round pick on Boise State product Leighton Vander Esch, Kristi Scales of The Dallas Morning News reports.
The draft pick hints at a lack of confidence regarding Smith's ability to handle a full-time role, though Sean Lee's lengthy injury history may have been just as large of a factor. The Cowboys likely envision Vander Esch as a direct replacement for Anthony Hitchens, who signed with the Chiefs in March after operating as a three-down middle linebacker for the Cowboys throughout much of 2017. Despite notching 81 tackles and two forced fumbles on only 575 defensive snaps last season, Smith may find himself watching from the sideline while Lee and Vander Esch take the field in the Cowboys' nickel defense. Of course, it won't come as any surprise if Smith puts up a major fight, considering he was an even better prospect than Vander Esch prior to suffering a career-threatening knee injury during the Fiesta Bowl in January 2016.
|3||9/23/18||@ SEA||4:25 pm|
|5||10/7/18||@ HOU||8:20 pm|
|7||10/21/18||@ WAS||4:25 pm|
|Bye: Week 8|
|10||11/11/18||@ PHI||8:20 pm|
|11||11/18/18||@ ATL||1:00 pm|
|15||12/16/18||@ IND||1:00 pm|
|17||12/30/18||@ NYG||1:00 pm|
|Year||Team||G||Fum||Lost||Fum Forced||Own Rec||Opp Rec||Yds||Tot Rec||TD|