(Editor's Note: The DallasCowboys.com team welcomes Bucky Brooks to the staff. Bucky brings a wealth of experience, not only as a former NFL player of five seasons, but also as a scout and on the pro personnel side for two teams. In the last decade, Brooks has worked in the media, including the NFL Network. Bucky will provide his own analysis and opinions of the Cowboys but also the entire NFL. Today, he breaks down one of the new free-agent signings in defensive end Aldon Smith.)
Name: Aldon Smith Position: EDGE College: Missouri Height: 6-5 Weight: 255 Season: 6th Games Studied: 2015 (Raiders vs. Minnesota and Pittsburgh); 2012 (49ers vs Chicago)
Smith is a long, rangy EDGE defender with natural pass rush ability. The sixth-year pro took the league by storm tallying 42.5 sacks in the first 43 games of his career, exhibiting an exceptional combination of strength, power and explosiveness off the edge. Smith was an unstoppable force as a pass rusher when given the freedom to hunt the quarterback on bull rushes or T-E stunts (defensive end and defensive tackle exchange gap responsibilities), particularly early in his career with the 49ers when he displayed outstanding chemistry with Justin Smith on a variety of games.
With the Raiders (2015), Smith didn't display the same power, explosiveness or burst that made him an All-Pro edge defender in his second season. The veteran defender continued to attack edge blockers with his long arms and active hands but couldn't overpower his opponents with his brute strength and didn't show the sequencing skills to win with an assortment of counters when he was stymied at the line. If Smith attempted to win with speed or finesse, blockers would sit on his moves and stalemate him before he work their edges. Although he previously utilized similar moves to win as a young player, he didn't have the same twitch or explosiveness that once made him a dynamic rusher off the edge. Smith's QB sacks (3) with the Raiders resulted from "free" runs (unobstructed) to the quarterback or blown blocking assignments at the point of attack.
As a run defender, Smith is a capable stack and shed defender on the edge. He effectively utilizes his length to control blockers at the point of attack and works to seal the edge by maintaining proper leverage. Smith plays with enough effort and energy to win more than his fair share of battles on the edge in the run game but he could ramp up the hustle on plays away. To be a key contributor on a defense that this stage of his career, he will need to transform into a high-motor player with greater emphasis on his skills as a run defender.
Power player with long arms and active hands Flashes explosive strength and power as pass rusher Productive and disruptive playmaker during his prime
Lacks elite first step quickness and burst Questionable stamina and endurance Unrefined technician Rust from an extended layoff
What are scouts saying?
When Smith was with Oakland, he was good but not elite. He has natural ability to play on the edge with his length and natural power. He wasn't as explosive and finishing burst to the quarterback had dropped off but he would flash on occasion. You wonder how good Smith could've been if he was able to stay focused on and off the field.
How does he fit in with the Cowboys?
Smith should be considered a wild card player for the Cowboys. The veteran defender hasn't suited up in a regular season game in four years and his game was in decline at that point. Although he might be in better shape from a mental and physical standpoint, it is hard to imagine a 30-year old shaking off the rust to re-emerge as a premier player at the position. That said, Smith could become a solid contributor as an EDGE defender and situational pass rusher for the Cowboys. He rejoins his old defensive line coach (Jim Tomsula) and is playing in a scheme that should put him in a position to make plays. If Smith can get into world-class shape and re-discover a few dependable pass rush moves, he could Mike Nolan a rotational power rusher in the bullpen.