FRISCO (105.3 THE FAN) – Soon it will be time to make a list of all the things that went right for the 2017 Dallas Cowboys. It will be a short list. But middle linebacker Jaylon Smith will be on it.
“I feel elite again,” Smith said this week, as the Cowboys prepare for their season finale at Philly. “It’s a great feeling and knowing I’m able to contribute at a high level for America’s Team, it’s going to be some great years to come.’’
Don’t misinterpret the word “elite’’ here. Smith isn’t saying he’s Dick Butkus and Ray Lewis rolled into one — which is the sort of player he truly was projected to be before the devastating knee injury he sustained in his final college game at Notre Dame two years ago. “Elite’’ means he’s playing in the NFL, as a part-time starter, with 78 tackles, two forced fumbles and a sack.
It means he belongs, something no one could be quite sure about until he took the field this season, his second with the Cowboys after being a surprise 2016 second-round pick, but in many ways, as he said, his “rookie’’ season.
It’s just the rhythm,’’ said Smith, who will play all 16 games for Dallas this year. “Each game, I improved. … I’m back. I feel like myself. It’s very encouraging moving into next season.”
Smith still wears the ankle brace to help with his dropfoot, the result of nerves in his knee that are not still fully firing. So there is progress still to be made, in so many areas. But Jaylon Smith is an NFL player, and that is a marvelous thing … and high on a 2017 Cowboys list that is short on such news.