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Position Overview: Does Dallas’ defense get better without Smith?

The Dallas Cowboys officially cut ties with veteran linebacker Jaylon Smith Wednesday. Head coach Mike McCarthy said veteran linebacker Jaylon Smith’s release “wasn’t an easy decision” for the franchise, but ultimately a “big picture roster move.”

“We felt this was the time to do it,” McCarthy said. “I just think like anything, there are always factors involved in how you build your 90-man roster. … Jaylon’s an excellent football player. There are other factors involved in this decision.

“He played good football for us. In my time with him, he totally bought into the new direction of the program and everything we’ve done. The guy practices every single day and plays his ass off. I have nothing but respect for him.”

The obvious reason is the $9.2 million guarantee Smith would receive in 2022 if he were to get injured. It was reported Dallas wanted Smith to void that part of his contract and he rightfully refused. Though the actual move wasn’t surprising, the timing was. So the question remains, what now?

Micah Parsons, Jabril Cox, Keanu Neal, Leighton Vander Esch and Luke Gifford are the current string of rotational linebackers deployable for the Cowboys. Neal is expected back this week after missing the previous two games due to COVID and all eyes are on Cox to receive an increase in playing time following Smith’s departure. Defensive end Bradlee Anae is also set to return from the COVID list.

But the new open linebacker spot goes deeper than just sliding one of their current players up. Currently, Dallas is missing DeMarcus Lawrence, Dorance Armstrong, Neville Gallimore, Carlos Watkins and Donovan Wilson with injury.

We know defensive coordinator Dan Quinn loves to show multiple fronts in base – whether they’re in 43 or 34 defense.

4-3 Scheme

Defensive Line – Randy Gregory/Tarrell Basham, Osa Odighizuwa, Neville Gaillimore, DeMarcus Lawrence/Dorance Armstrong

Linebackers – Micah Parsons, Keanu Neal, Leighton Vander Esch/Jabril Cox

Defensive backs – Trevon Diggs, Damontae Kazee/Malik Hooker, Donovan Wilson/Jayron Kearse, Anthony Brown

3-4 Scheme

Defensive Line – Osa Odighizuwa, Neville Gaillimore, DeMarcus Lawrence

Linebacker – Randy Gregory (OLB), Keanu Neal/Jabril Cox (MLB), Leight Vander Esch/Jayron Kearse (MLB), Micah Parsons (OLB)

Defensive Backs – Trevon Diggs, Damontae Kazee/Malik Hooker, Donovan Wilson, Anthony Brown

At full strength, the Dallas Cowboys are versatile enough to better ensure their talent is being optimized. With Smith on the roster at his cap number, there was not a high chance you would ever DNP him – especially considering he was just a defensive captain against Carolina.

Though this is a move you wish could’ve come in the offseason, it still offers Dallas a chance to be faster and more athletic, while using their entire disposable on defense.

Staff Writer covering the Dallas Cowboys | Madden Legend | SFA Alum | Fascinated by Success

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