With the team moving LVE to the MIKE position, will that give Jaylon Smith a better opportunity to be used as a pass rusher in the 3-4 defensive alignments? – KARL HOUCK / ROCKWALL, TX
Rob: I don't think it's so much about the 3-4 exclusively as potentially finding ways to showcase Smith's pass rushing skills in a variety of looks. I understand the question, because one advantage of the 3-4 is the offense doesn't know where the fourth rusher is coming from. We'll see how much of that alignment they actually play. Mike McCarthy has said they're a 4-3 defense at their core. But moving Smith to WILL, even if it's not a major transition from MIKE, suggests they've got plans to capitalize on Smith's versatility.
David: It's hard to say without watching them line up, but I really hope this is part of the intent. And obviously we don't expect the Cowboys to play a ton of 3-4, but I'm just hopeful Mike Nolan plans to use Jaylon as a blitzer and a pass rusher more often. He has clear value doing so. Moving him out to WILL should allow him to do some of that, and it should keep him out of the middle of the field – which was a trouble spot for him at times. I'm excited about the move.
With no pre-season games and a different type of training camp, do you think this might translate into more injuries during the season? – SCOTT EHLER / PARKSTON, SD
Rob: Well, injuries went up across the league after the 2011 lockout, when players didn't report until the start of camp. Soft tissue injuries in particular can be a concern when players have a long layoff. But that's why this current ramp-up period is smart. It helps players focus on the strength and conditioning part first and build on what they've already been doing on their own. And the Cowboys do have a highly regarded athletic training staff led by Jim Maurer and Britt Brown.
David: The goal of the ramp-up period is to limit some of that. In this day and age, players condition and workout throughout the offseason, so having three weeks to tighten things up should help them prepare. But at the end of the day, you can't simulate football speed and football contact without actual reps. It seems like the league is being smart about this, but I won't be surprised if there are still more injuries than normal. By the time Week 1 arrives, these guys will only have had 14 real-deal practices since last January. That's a long layoff.