As the stretch run approaches, the Cowboys could be receiving some reinforcement on both sides of the ball. Cowboys executive Vice President Stephen Jones told 105.3 The Fan that the team is planning on activating rookie linebacker Jaylon Smith from the non-football injury list (via ESPN’s Todd Archer). Meanwhile, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that the team will also activate running back Darren McFadden from the NFI.
Smith would certainly be an intriguing addition to the Cowboys defense, as the team snagged the Notre Dame linebacker in the second round of this year’s draft. The talented defender was initially expected to be a top-10 pick, but a torn ACL and MCL ended his collegiate career and dropped his draft stock. Even with a reported nerve issue in his knee, the Cowboys still had faith that Smith was worth the risk. During his final season at Notre Dame, the linebacker compiled 115 tackles, one sack, and one forced fumble.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that Smith even sees the field this season. Archer notes that the linebacker’s routine will remain the same, and the activation is just to “keep open the possibility of him playing.” The reporter says that it’s unlikely Smith sees any playing time this year.
That news shouldn’t be too devastating to Cowboys fans, as the trio of Sean Lee, Justin Durant, and Anthony Hitchens have been more than serviceable in the starting lineup. Meanwhile, the team also has four reserve linebackers in Mark Nzeocha, Andrew Gachkar, Damien Wilson, and Kyle Wilber.
The return of McFadden will just add another talented player to the Cowboys impressive grouping of running backs. Ezekiel Elliott‘s rookie campaign has been well documented, and backup Alfred Morris is only two seasons removed from a 1,000-yard campaign. Of course, there’s no denying McFadden’s talent, as the former first-rounded rushed for 1,089 yards and three touchdowns for the Cowboys last season. The 29-year-old could make an impact on the passing game, as McFadden averaged 38 receptions per season between 2014 and 2015.
Meanwhile, Rapoport reports that tight end James Hanna had knee surgery and is expected to miss the rest of the season. Hanna opened training camp on the physically unable to perform list and had his first surgery in August.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.