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Mailbag: Jaylon’s Production? Key vs. Rams?

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I'm really happy for Jaylon Smith to see he's a finalist for the Butkus Award. Even prior to Sean Lee getting hurt, I thought it was looking as though Smith was taking over as the Cowboys' best linebacker. Considering the Cowboys' defensive scheme is catered to the WILL making a bunch of plays, I think his production this year has been particularly awesome. What's your overall take? - JAMES MITCHELL / INDIANAPOLIS, IN

Bryan: I have scouted a long time and I have never been more wrong about a player and what he could potentially become. I had plenty of people tell me that this was going to be his year and every one of them were right. Hats off to him and Associate Athletic Trainer Britt Brown for what they were able to accomplish together. It’s been an amazing journey. 

Rob: It’s just fun to watch the difference in Smith’s play this year compared to last year. Just looks like a totally different player the further removed he is from that 2016 knee injury. The other thing is how physical he tackles. Sort of like a hard-hitting safety, opposing skill players have to be aware of him when going over the middle. That’s a real asset for a defense.

The Cowboys’ defense surprised a lot of people by handling the Saints and this is obviously another challenge vs. the Rams. How do you compare those two offenses? Is there anything the Cowboys can draw on from that game? - MIKE S. / PLANO, TX

Bryan: If there was one thing that the Cowboys could take from that Saints game and transfer that to this game I would say it would have to be the pressure they applied to Drew Brees. They were relentless that night and it affected the way the Saints' offense operated. This is the way the Bears and Eagles beat the Rams. 

Rob: The two offenses are right on par with each other in terms of ability. The biggest similarity to me is the Rams rely on Todd Gurley, like the Saints’ Alvin Kamara, to make plays all over the field, running and receiving. The Cowboys have to account for him on every play. They were successful against Kamara and have to find a way to keep Gurley in check. Otherwise he can open up the play-action game for Jared Goff.

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