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Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says LB Jaylon Smith play has been 'courageous'

Fans and pundits have not been impressed with the play of Jaylon Smith so far in 2020 but Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is still high on the linebacker.
Credit: AP
Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith enters the field before an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

DALLAS — Jerry Jones doesn't believe there has been a downturn in Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith's play through the first quarter of the season.

The Cowboys owner, president, and general manager joined "Shan & RJ" on 105.3 "The Fan" [KRLD-FM] for his weekly radio appearance Tuesday and even went as far as to laud the former Pro Bowl linebacker.

"Oh, I think Jaylon Smith has been courageous — I'll use that word right there — in his performance," Jones said. "He gives you everything that he's got. I think that when you think about how significant our change is on defense and you think about his role in quarterbacking it and making a lot of the calls and making a lot of the mental aspects that the team needs to have done at his position out there, then you can give him reasons why that we're sitting here having this conversation."

Smith has taken over the relaying of calls since Week 2 when Leighton Vander Esch was placed in injured reserve with a broken collarbone. In the four games, Smith has provided 39 tackles, a tackle for loss, and two pass breakups.

Fans and media have been critical of Smith's play. The former 2016 second-round pick hasn't produced takeaways and has been a face in the crowd along the Cowboys' front seven, which has given up 172.5 rushing yards a game, second-most in the NFL, and 4.9 yards per carry, tied with the Houston Texans and Cincinnati Bengals for the seventh-worst in the league.

Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan doesn't understand why Smith has been the subject of such scrutiny.

"This is the honest truth," Nolan told reporters Monday. "I don't know why Jaylon takes the criticism he does. He's a good football player. He plays extremely hard. I think he has improved. Look, I'd be the first to say it. I always call it like I see it, but Jaylon, look, nobody has played a perfect game for us thus far, and I don't think they will."

Smith had seven tackles in the Cowboys' 49-38 loss to the Cleveland Browns in Week 4 at AT&T Stadium. The Browns churned 307 rushing yards and scored three rushing touchdowns.

According to Nolan, the coaching staff grades a player's effort in three categories: winning, "just did your job," and losing, the last of which Smith has not turned in through four games going by Dallas’ metric.

Said Nolan: "Thus far, I can't say he's had a game of the four that he's had a losing effort."

Jones echoed Nolan's comments that Smith has not been a problem on defense.

"He has not had a losing effort, and he'll give you everything he's got," said Jones. "We've got players that will do that for us out there, and he's certainly got the talent. I'll say without question he has the talent to be the middle linebacker on a winning, championship team."

The Cowboys signed Smith to a five-year, $64 million contract in the preseason of 2019. Though Smith has not turned in losing efforts, the Cowboys will need winning performances from their $12.8 million a year linebacker if they hope to repair their porous front seven in what has been a 1-3 start to the 2020 campaign.

Do you agree with Jerry Jones that Jaylon Smith’s play has been up to snuff? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.