FRISCO, Texas - If the teacher doesn't understand the lesson, there's no way the students will.
That's the mindset Jaylon Smith is taking as he prepares for Sunday's game with the Vikings.
Not that Smith is the actual teacher to his defensive teammates, but he's the one that relays the messages. That's why he says communication is the key to the Cowboys defense having any success.
"It's huge. It's huge for me, especially calling the defense," Smith said to reporters during a virtual call on Thursday. "If I don't understand it, how can everyone else? So, it's a just a matter of extra work, extra detail and understanding what all my guys need to do and what I need to do and relaying that message in a timely matter so that we can get lined up and go play. So, definitely starts with myself."
For Smith and the Cowboys, getting in the right alignment is going to be crucial this week more than ever. Minnesota's Dalvin Cook leads the NFL with 954 rushing yards. The Vikings have a similar running scheme as the Browns, who lit up the Cowboys for over 300 rushing yards back in Week 4.
"Big learning lesson from the Cleveland game was the alignment. There were so many plays where we weren't aligned correctly," Smith said. "It had nothing to do with the effort or lack of physicality or anything of that nature. It's a numbers game. We get the numbers right, we love our chances. So, it's a big attention to detail this week and getting ready for a physical battle."
Smith said stopping Cook won't be easy, mainly because of his versatility to run and catch, plus his change of direction.
"Dalvin's elusiveness, being able to make any cut, his patience, allowing his blocks to develop, and then from there just his heart, and for us - I played him a couple of times in college and got a chance to play him last year," Smith said, referring to the battles between Notre Dame and Florida State. "It's about learning, it's about learning. It's about us. It's the guys. It's about us preparing and getting ready to stop this high-powered offense. We're looking forward to the challenge. No shying down; it's just all about preparation."
And since he's making the calls in the game, that preparation starts with Smith, who said there likely won't be any surprises in what the Cowboys are about to face in Minnesota.
"Absolutely. You know what you're going to get," Smith said. "It's like, as I said, it's about aligning correctly, and it's about bringing our physicality and our intensity. And that's what we're focused on. We're looking forward to a battle."