One of the biggest areas the Dallas Cowboys have sought to improve in 2020 has been edge defense, if not the trenches entirely.
The club already had defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence and wishful thinking that defensive end Randy Gregory would be able to contribute. Dallas signed defensive linemen Dontari Poe and Gerald McCoy, and even brought in four-time Pro Bowl defensive end Everson Griffen.
Like Gregory, who Dallas took a chance on in Round 2 of the 2015 NFL Draft, the Cowboys rolled the dice on former San Francisco 49ers All-Pro Aldon Smith, who has not played a down of football since the 2015 season.
The Cowboys know they have an athletic specimen in Smith who could present trouble off the edge for opposing offenses. However, even if Smith doesn't have the type of season statistically that he produced from 2011-13, the Cowboys will still benefit from his presence.
"Thus far, I like the way Aldon, No. 1, interacts with the other players to be honest with you," defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said. "He's a team player. He's got a lot of personality. Like I said, I like the way he interacts with D-Law, with Tyrone Crawford, with a number of guys. I see their chemistry, that's so important, not only on the defensive line, but in the defense. I like the way he adds to that group. So, that excites me."
The chemistry along the defensive line has been maintained by Crawford. The former 2012 third-round pick has position flex, but was limited to four games last year with a hip injury. Dallas traded for defensive lineman Michael Bennett, who was not effective in the New England Patriots' 3-4 defense. Though Bennett was a two-time Super Bowl champion and carried a certain gravitas, the defensive line was missing the leadership from Crawford.
With Smith in the mix early, the defensive line is forming the same type of cohesion they have enjoyed with Crawford.
Nolan on Smith: "The way he approaches and the way he interacts with the other players, in particular the defensive line, is probably the most telling story and probably the most important thing he'll do and that's get the chemistry together in the process of learning our jobs as defensive players."
The 6-4, 265-pound edge defender is enthused to play alongside Lawrence, a two-time Pro Bowler, and Griffen, who has produced three seasons with 10.0-plus sacks.
"I think each of us brings something to the table, something different, and then when we're all out there, when we get all out there together, we can make some things happen," Smith said. "So, each of us communicating and using our tools, who knows what can happen when we're all out there together? I think the more that we're around each other and practice and learn how one another moves, we'll be able to produce some good results."
What is being forged in August is the chemistry necessary to manifest those good results, and Smith is the foundational element.
Do you think Aldon Smith will be able to contribute to the Cowboys even after missing the last four years? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.