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Mailbag: Position Switch For Jaylon Smith?


Do you see a major overhaul on the Cowboys' defense this coming year? Trading, drafting for players that fit the Nolan defense? — RUBEN TREVINO / CONVERSE, TX

David: I tend to think that was going to happen anyway. Most of the back end of this defense was already on the last year of their deals, and obviously some guys with some bigger deals aren't currently living up to them. I think you're going to see a bit of a shuffle in free agency, and I'm not going to be surprised if there are some eyebrow-raising personnel moves if things don't improve here over the next 10 weeks. By the time 2021 rolls around, I'm not going to be surprised if half the current starting defense isn't here anymore.

Rob: Yes, I think you're going to see changes and some of it might happen naturally through free agency. Jourdan Lewis, Xavier Woods, Chidobe Awuzie, Tyrone Crawford and Aldon Smith all have deals expiring after this season. So we'll see how the Cowboys address that next spring. The salary cap level for next year is uncertain because of revenue loss from the pandemic, so teams might have be more creative in handling their cap. But obviously I expect the draft to have a pretty heavy focus on addressing that side of the ball.

Could and should the Cowboys move Jaylon Smith in a more DE/rusher hybrid position, similar to Aldon Smith, where he is more of a stand-up pass rusher and not dropping into coverage? — KYLE LEINAN / DES MOINES, IA

David: To be honest, that's one thing I was hoping we'd see from the get-go under Mike Nolan. Jaylon Smith is clearly at his best when he's able to move downhill toward the line of scrimmage. He has problems when he's asked to move laterally or play in space. I'm not sure if you could afford to move him to a pass rushing position full-time because of depth issues, but it's definitely something I'd like to see more of.

Rob: Yeah, I don't know about a change to full-time pass rusher. We've talked about one of Jaylon's biggest strengths being a blitzer/pass rusher in certain situations, but I think Leighton Vander Esch's return can help him return to more of that role. They seem to complement each other well when both are on the field.

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