Linebacker Jaylon Smith played in less than half of the defensive snaps Sunday, but his workload appeared to be the right amount for the Dallas Cowboys.
Smith had his first career sack on a strip-sack of San Francisco 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard on the final play of the third quarter, and coach Jason Garrett raved about him in his Monday news conference.
“Jaylon probably played his best game,” Garrett said. “He was around the ball a lot. He had the one big impact sack. That combination of guys playing that linebacker spot, they really showed up in the game.”
It’s the first game that had a fully healthy linebacker corps with Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens available, as well as Smith. Hitchens missed the first four games with a knee injury, and Lee missed the previous two with a hamstring injury.
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With Lee and Hitchens healthy, it cut into Smith’s playing time – he played 32 of 66 defensive snaps – but it proved to be the right formula.
Smith did his signature “swipe” after the sack. Actually, he did it twice to make sure the cameras caught it.
“It was a great feeling whenever you’re able to make a big play to help out the team,” Smith said. “That’s what it’s all about. We’re all in it for the team.
“In those type of moments it reminds you when you were 7-years-old playing football. It’s definitely a blessing.”
The Cowboys don’t appear to be overly concerned with linebacker Sean Lee’s health.
Lee was limping at the end of Sunday’s 40-10 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. Coach Garrett downplayed the significance of the injury.
Garrett said Lee had a quad contusion and is expected to be ready for next Sunday’s game at Washington. Lee was among the veterans the Cowboys pulled late with the game in hand.
“We took him out because we wanted to get the other guys an opportunity to play at the end of the ballgame,” Garrett said on Monday. “We anticipate him being ready this week.”
Lee missed the previous two games with a hamstring injury, two games the Cowboys lost despite scoring more than 30 points in each of them.
Lee was credited with five tackles, including two for loss, in playing 49 of 66 defensive snaps on Sunday.
In other injury news, Garrett said defensive back Chidobe Awuzie (hamstring) and linebacker Justin Durant (groin) would be limited in practice Wednesday. Neither played Sunday.
“We’ll see how they do as the week goes on,” Garrett said.