The Dallas Cowboys are opening the season with a lot of uncertainty and issues on offense. They will need to have a transformed passing attack without Dez Bryant, while trying to make sure the absence of Travis Frederick is not too detrimental to the running game.
The Cowboys are at a point where the defense may be needed to make up for issues on offense, and that is not something many people were anticipating after the two stars on offense were so spectacular in their rookie season.
Fortunately, the Cowboys have been assembling a solid core of young talent on defense, shifting a lot of the pressure on to that side of the ball. They have some top end talent that can be trusted in Demarcus Lawrence, Sean Lee and even Byron Jones.
These players have already set a standard, and the Cowboys know how good they need to be in order for the defense to be successful. They have the highest standard on this Cowboys defense, but a newcomer is going to be under the most pressure when they open the season against the Carolina Panthers.
Jaylon Smith is coming into this season knowing that he needs to be an elite player for this defense to be good, while having no experience or sample to back it up. Everyone has known the talent is there, and he could have been a top pick if not for the issues surrounding him in the draft.
Right now, however, all of that is behind him, and he can be one of the younger players that really pushes this defense over the edge. The fear is that we still do not know if he can even get close to that kind of standard.
Smith has a lot more to prove than anyone else on this defense right now, and he is going to be on center stage when they play the Panthers. Smith might be the most elite athlete on this Cowboys defense. He is supposed to have the strength to take anyone down in the backfield, with the speed to stay with running backs in coverage.
The two most significant offensive players on the Panthers will be challenging Smith’s remarkable athleticism the most. Christian McCaffrey is already one of the most difficult backs to stick with in coverage, and Cam Newton is the most physically dominant quarterback in the NFL.
If Smith struggles at any point in this game, the Cowboys will be getting burned on a regular basis. If the Cowboys are not able to trust Smith to consistently contain the two biggest weapons on the Panthers, there may not be anything this defense is able to do to stop them.
Smith has the talent to be in this position, but he has a long way to go before any kind of trust can be established. We still have not seen his phenomenal athletic ability translate to the field yet, and that absolutely has to happen this season.
For the Cowboys and for his career, Smith needs to be ready to dominate right now. The Panthers might also be the most difficult challenge he faces this season, and it is also the game where he can best showcase how good he can be.
Having this on the first game of the season is dangerous, but it will give the Cowboys some sort of idea of the kind of player that Smith will be this season, and what kind of responsibility he can be trusted with on a regular basis.
The Cowboys have a lot of young players that will be under a tremendous amount of pressure this season and a lot of things need to come together for them to be successful. On opening night against the Panthers, however, Smith is going to be under more pressure than anyone else.