Jaylon Smith is leading a defensive revival in Dallas

After a brutal injury that ended his collegiate career, Jaylon Smith has returned to full strength and is the centerpiece of one of the NFL’s best defensive units.

As Jaylon Smith was carted off the field at University of Phoenix Stadium back on New Year’s Day of 2016, many wondered if he would ever be able to play professionally. You could make the argument that he is the poster boy for why a college player with a guaranteed future in the NFL would want to skip a bowl game.

Fast-forward nearly two years, and the former Irish linebacker is the centerpiece of one of the NFL’s best defenses, playing for the most valuable sports franchise on the planet.

Through the first 13 games of the 2018 season, Smith has logged 96 tackles, four sacks and forced two fumbles. He is part of a linebacking corps that is the heart and soul of the Dallas Cowboy defense. Truth be told, there may not be a better duo of pure linebackers in the league than Smith and rookie Leighton Vander Esch.

The Dallas linebacking corps is a big reason that the Cowboy defense is fourth overall in yards per game allowed, ninth in passing yards per game allowed and third in rushing yards per game allowed.

As a unit, Dallas only allows 18.9 points per game. That’s good enough for second-best in the NFL, behind only the Baltimore Ravens (18.5).

Dallas’ consistent ability to both stuff the run and cover receivers and tight ends with its linebackers is causing a lot of problems for opposing offensive coordinators.

The dominant Cowboy defense has carried the team throughout the 2018 season thus far. The team finished the first half of the season with a 3-5 record despite giving up fewer than 19 points per game. Now that the offense looks to be coming around since the arrival of Amari Cooper, the Cowboys appear to have as good a shot in the postseason as anyone.

Never was that more apparent than in the recent win over the New Orleans Saints. Dallas shut down one of the league’s most prolific offenses and were able to win the game even with its own offense sputtering. Jaylon Smith had nine tackles in that contest.

If the Dallas Cowboy offense can just be average from now through the playoffs, Jaylon Smith and the defense just need to do what they’ve been doing in order to keep the team in the conversation of serious Super Bowl contenders.

It’s been a long time since Dallas Cowboy fans have been able to tout the defense as a strength. They are able to do so now, and Jaylon Smith is a huge reason why.