It’s safe to say Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has liked what he’s seen from third-year linebacker Jaylon Smith in training camp.
So much so, in fact, that Jones said in a radio interview Tuesday morning that the former Notre Dame standout could become a “cornerstone” of the storied franchise.
“He’s just so dominant when he gets out there,” Jones told 105.3 The Fan. “He’s got a chance to be a cornerstone.”
Smith, of course, was projected to be a top pick in the 2016 draft before suffering a devastating knee injury in his final collegiate game. Recovery required nerve regeneration in his leg.
He played all 16 games last year – starting six – with a brace on his leg. He didn’t have quite the same mobility that made him an All-American and Dick Butkus Award winner with the Fighting Irish.
This year, though, the brace is off and Smith has been moving better throughout camp.
“I’m not going to say double [what it was last year], or daylight and dark,” Jones said Tuesday. “But you could say that.”
Hear the interview below or here.
It’s not just the improved physical repertoire that has the Cowboys owner excited. Jones also invoked the name of the leader of the defense – and arguably the most talented player on the team when healthy – when talking about Smith’s leadership.
“It’s Sean Lee stuff,” he said. “No one has ever rehabbed any more successfully and with any more intensity than Jaylon Smith.”
Tuesday’s exaltation of Smith wasn’t the first from Jones this month. In the final week of the Cowboys’ final week of their training camp stay in Oxnard, Jones said he felt vindicated for his decision to take Smith in the second round of the 2016 draft despite Smith’s future being in question after his significant injury.
“What I’m seeing right here, right now, what I’ve seen so far, what I saw in the offseason, completely justifies our drafting him in the second round,” Jones told the Star-Telegram. “Completely. He’s really not only got a chance to really help us on the field, he’s one of our potential cornerstones. In every way, leadership as well as player.”