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5 Bucks: Time To Give Jaylon Smith His Props


The Cowboys are the talk of the town after dispatching a bitter divisional rival in a primetime game. The impressive Monday Night Football showing has the football world buzzing about the team's chances to winning the division and making a run at a Super Bowl title. While all of that talk is a little premature, the solid play that is showing up on tape is worthy of discussion, Here are some of my thoughts and observations after studying the Cowboys this week:

It is about the players, not the plays.

It is no a coincidence that the Cowboys are ballin' out of control when you look at their offensive lineup. The unit is full of A-listers and the collective star power makes it hard for defensive coordinators to craft an effective plan to slow down Cowboys' top playmakers. If opponents attempt to slow down a potent rushing attack that features a pair of complementary runners with big-play potential, the defense is susceptible to Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb getting loose on the perimeter with Prescott dropping dimes to WR1a and WR1b.

If the defensive coordinators opt to take away the deep ball with two-high coverage, Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard will make them pay for attempting to defend the run with light boxes. With the offensive line playing well behind the all-star efforts of Tyron Smith and Zach Martin, offensive coordinator Kellen Moore can put up 40-burgers by taking what the defense is giving up. The "pick your poison" approach has certainly paid off with the Cowboys averaging 30.0 points and 432 total yards per game.

Most importantly, the Cowboys are at the top of the NFC East with an offense that looks Super Bowl-ready.

It is time to put a little respect on Dak's name

The haters were out in full force when the Cowboys signed No.4 to his four-year, $160 million deal, but the peanut gallery has been silenced this season with Prescott leading the NFL in completion rate (77.5). The efficient performance from the Pro Bowl quarterback has not only showcased his supreme command of the Cowboys' offense but it has put the spotlight on his A-level skills as a passer. Prescott has the capacity to throw with touch, timing, and precision as a fastball pitcher or off-speed thrower intent on painting the corners with superb ball placement.

Watching the veteran become an artist at the position is a testament to the work that he has put in since coming into the league as a dual-threat playmaker with a power-based game. Prescott's evolution from game manager to playmaker has enabled the Cowboys' offense to become more dynamic as the coaching staff puts more on No.4's plate as the team's franchise player. Considering how well he has performed over the past two seasons, it is time to recognize and appreciate Prescott as one of the game's top quarterbacks.

Trevon Diggs is an elite playmaker

I do not know if the Cowboys' coaching staff expected Diggs to become a premier cover corner in Year 2, but the young playmaker deserves consideration as one of the premier players at the position. Sure, that is a lot of hype for a young player but there are not many corners playing A-plus football with the confidence and swagger of an All-Pro.

Diggs has taken on the challenge of defending the opponent's No.1 receiver while also displaying, the discipline, focus, and technical skills needed to play straight up in man or zone. The second-year pro's superb instincts, awareness, and anticipation have enabled him to take his game up a notch as he has become an elite ballhawk on the island. With six picks in his last eight games (seven starts), including three this season, Diggs has become a master thief in coverage.

As the Cowboys continue to evolve as a defense under Dan Quinn, Diggs' emergence as an all-star-caliber cover corner gives the wily defensive coordinator a marquee player to build around.

DQ's turnover tactics are paying off

If you had a chance to check out a Cowboys' training camp practice, you would have noticed the countless turnover drills that defenders participated in each day. From the standard scoop and score sessions to the tip drills to catch balls off of the JUGS' machine, the Cowboys spent the entire summer creating habits that would lead to more takeaways.

After watching the Cowboys emerge as the NFL leader in total takeaways through three games, the team's commitment to creating turnovers has paid off. The defensive backs, in particular, are cashing in their lottery tickets by snatching every tipped or overthrown ball in their direction. The combination drill work and an "eyes" scheme (zone coverage enables defenders to keep their eyes on the ball) has resulted in mote interceptions for the unit.

In addition, the renewed emphasis on hustling and effort have put more Cowboys in prime position to snag an errant pass or scoop up a bouncing ball off of the turf. With the extra practice reps and increased effort producing results, the Cowboys' practice makes perfect approach has fueled a defensive resurgence.

Give Jaylon Smith his props

The much-maligned Pro Bowl linebacker has drawn the ire of a legion of Cowboys' fans over the past few years, but it is time to applaud Smith for playing at a high level this season. The veteran has seemingly bought into DQ's defensive culture based on his improved effort, performance, and production.

Perhaps the change is due to the presence of a better communicator at the play-caller spot or an environment that promotes accountability or the arrival of an all-star talent at the position, Smith has certainly taken his game up a notch this season. He is displaying more effort running to the ball on the field, and he has become a more disruptive force against the run and pass. The veteran's improved performance has played a role in the defense's ability to hold its own in some battles against top offenses (see Chargers and Buccaneers).

Most importantly, it has helped the team improve with the leaders exhibiting the behaviors that coaches want young players to emulate. If Smith continues to lead and produce at this level, the Cowboys' defense could spark a run to a playoff berth.

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