The Dallas Cowboys are rolling the dice this season. They cut bait with a handful of sure things (Amari Cooper, La’el Collins, Randy Gregory, Cedrick Wilson) and are gambling big on some fairly unproven replacements (Terence Steele, James Washington, Sam Williams, and Tyler Smith).
Flying under the radar on their list of 2022 gambles is what they’ve decided to do at the left tackle position. Nothing.
The Dallas Cowboys seem to be content going into the 2022 season with two backup tackles who’ve never played an NFL snap.
The Dallas Cowboys have a solid track record in the draft. Their rookies manage to hit at a higher rate than most teams, and last year, every pick seemed to play a role at some point in the season. Given that, it’s fair to expect unproven players like rookies to jump in take on big roles.
Certainly the Dallas Cowboys are going to be counting on Tyler Smith immediately. That’s to be expected out of your 1st round pick. Instant impact. In the run game you can expect just that. Big, physical, bruising, moving and ready made strength against anyone you put in front of him.
There could be trouble ahead when it comes to protecting Dak Prescott, though.
Day one of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) brought about something that is better to happen in May, but is an unavoidable concern going into September – Tyron Smith was sidelined with back tightness.
Again, we are just now closing out May so it’s nothing to truly stress over, right? There’s several months to go before the season really gets going!
Except this is Tyron Smith we are talking about here. Missing significant game time feels like a given. Does back tightness in May mean he’ll miss 5-7 games? The answer is no, but with a massive eye roll. That way of thinking is deliberately throwing out much needed context that writes itself all over the walls.
Tyron Smith WILL miss time.
Now the issue becomes, “who fills in for him?”
Here’s where we get back to managing expectations for this rookie class and other young players.
Tyler Smith did play tackle at Tulsa, but he’s not an NFL tackle. His home will be at guard. So when Tyron is inevitably in street clothes it will be another pair of young players who will be filling his space at left tackle. Which is where it starts to get scary.
5th round rookie Matt Waletzko and second year 4th round OT Josh Ball are going to have to pull massive weight in 2022. It’s all a matter of who’s ready first and proves it to the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff.
There’s the major concern. You may need a pen and pad for some pretty intense math here.
If Tyler Smith does, indeed, stay at left guard then the Dallas Cowboys will be counting on two players who have combined to play…got that pen and paper ready?
Zero snaps in the NFL.
Obviously if you want to talk about investing draft capital, it could be spun to convince someone the front office has at least made the attempt at addressing the issue of Tyron Smith’s backup. After all, the Dallas Cowboys have drafted seven college tackles since 2014.
So why haven’t the Cowboys found a suitable backup LT despite knowing their future Hall of Famer will miss time and having picks that suggest they should have one by now?
Because of those seven college tackles drafted since 2014, three get moved to play guard (Smith, Connor Williams, Zack Martin), three were day three picks (Ball, Waletzko, Laurence Gibson) and the other was Chaz Green. Need more be said?
The only other attempt made by the Dallas Cowboys front office to cover themselves on Tyron has been a few cheap free agent signings like Ty Nsekhe and Cameron Fleming.
By the way, none of the three players mentioned in the previous paragraph are currently on an NFL roster.
The solution should be simple. It’s the same approach they took when then franchise quarterback Tony Romo was near guaranteed to miss time.
Sign a pricy backup.
Imagine if they don’t. At some point this season they’ll have a Day 3 player with zero NFL snaps playing LT, a rookie at LG, and Tyler Biadasz in the middle. Unless Biadasz makes large strides in year three and Tyler Smith is an instant hit, then this team is putting Dak Prescott at risk with that potential lineup.
There’s elder veteran free agents still available like Nate Solder, Duane Brown, Riley Reiff, or Marcus Cannon. Is that supposed to excite you? No. It’s meant to cover your hind end while Tyron Smith recovers from whatever injury has occurred. That feels much better than relying on a pair of small school youngsters.
Except Stephen Jones has already said they’re happy going into the season with their current backups.
You can expect a lot of potential from young players. Hopefully much of it being delightful surprises from some inexperienced linemen. But to rely on it is nothing short of neglectful. Even through the thinly veiled “well we’ve tried” type attempts by the Dallas Cowboys front office.
If there’s any common agreement amongst anyone invested in the Dallas Cowboys, it’s that the team needs to be prepared for life without Tyron.
Even if it’s just while he sits with a little back tightness in May.