After tearing his ACL, LCL and having damage to his peroneal nerve in January of 2016, Jaylon Smith has finally been declared "Baseline" and ready to play his first game against the Rams this Saturday. After more than a year rehabbing, the Cowboys are ready to test their investment and see if their risky, early second round pick will pay off.
Watching a few videos of Jaylon I have to say I'm impressed. Coming back from ligament surgeries are one thing, but to return from a nerve injury with foot drop is another. That being said, I have noticed two big problems that show he is actually not ready and that the organization is rushing him back to show that they didn't make a mistake with this pick.
1) He doesn't trust his left leg- watching him stand, he still favors his right leg. When he runs, he also seems to favor straight away running versus pure lateral movement. Even when he does cut off the leg which requires lateral movement, it's still at an angle that is favoring his backside muscles versus his lateral muscles. This can be a problem when he is in real time, cutting hard without the ability to compensate.
2) He has developed some (secondary) right sides issues - because of his favoring of the right leg, he has developed some tightness in his hip. Watching him run and stretch, I've noticed an outward movement of his knee (combination of abduction and external rotation). He likes to "sit in his hip" when favoring the right. This is an outcome of compensatory movements and an acquired pelvic instability.
At the end of the day: While Jaylon has made an impressive comeback thus far, I don't see him being more than 75% of where he should be to play confidently at the NFL level. Starting earlier than when he's ready is a recipe for a reinjury of the left knee, right sided back tightness, a right labral tear in the hip or a bad sprain of the left ankle (due to poor weight bearing on the left). With the right corrections, I don't see why he couldn't come back at nearly 100% later this year and a force to be reckoned with once again.
The Injury Analyst is a blog dedicated to not only explaining injuries that have occurred, but predicting and highlighting future injury risks for professional athletes. You can email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: I have not seen the subject of this article personally in clinic, rather all views and opinions of the author have been made based off of video footage of the athlete. This article is not meant as a diagnosis or a treatment plan.