The Dallas Cowboys did not go out and get Rod Marinelli a top shelf pass rusher at the top of the draft as many assumed they would, but the defensive coordinator had no shortage of praise for second round pick Jaylon Smith, the linebacker out of Notre Dame who won’t even play until 2017.
It could take awhile, but in Smith, Marinelli believes the Cowboys may have found their middle linebacker of the future.
“He just leaps off the screen,” Marinelli said of watching film on Smith, per Todd Archer of ESPN Dallas. “He is really good. He is really athletic in space, great hands, great tackler, great blitzer. He is just a real ballplayer. He fits anybody, but in our system with the way we will use him, he will be pretty special.”
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Head coach Jason Garrett had a similarly glowing review of Smith, who finished his final season with the Irish with an astounding 114 tackles, before suffering the devastating knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl that ultimately dropped him to the second round.
“We see him as a natural [middle linebacker], but he also has a physical ability to play [weakside linebacker],” Garrett said. “He just has some great traits. He’s a big guy. He’s 240-plus pounds. He’s long. He’s quick. He’s fast. He’s instinctive. He’s a great tackler. He’s physical. He makes plays on the ball. We don’t see that he has limitations at either of those spots. I think he’d be very natural at either one of them, and has the traits to do it.”