Over the last few weeks, talk of offensive tackle Tyron Smith returning to the Dallas Cowboys has been heating up. What would getting their Pro Bowl left tackle means for the Cowboys’ offense, and what ripple effect could it have on Smith’s teammates and their roles?
Tyron suffered a torn hamstring during practice on August 24th. With hopes that he could return before the end of the season, Dallas carried him on the initial 53-man roster and then placed him on injured reserve so that he would be eligible for recall. It was projected that Smith could return in December for the last quarter or so of the regular season.
Well, with Thanksgiving next week, we’re obviously closing in on that potential return. We’re also hearing positive reports from Cowboys insiders and coaches regarding Tyron’s progress, though without any definitive timetable yet for when and how he’ll be reintegrated with the roster.
Earlier this year, first-round rookie Tyler Smith was getting heavy praise for his work at left tackle. There was even a brief thought that Dallas might not want to move him from the spot, preparing for a likely future without Tyron Smith in 2023 and beyond. But while Tyler has remained an adequate option, there’s real potential that reinserting Tyron at left tackle and getting Tyler over to left guard would only strengthen the line, and the offense in general, for the Cowboys’ expected opportunity in the playoffs.
A higher ceiling
Remember, Tyler Smith was working at guard throughout the offseason and training camp before Tyron’s injury. He might have even stayed there if other backup options like Josh Ball or Matt Waletzko had inspired any confidence during the preseason. But without a better alternative, the Cowboys started Tyler’s eventual move to left tackle a year earlier than expected.
While the younger Smith, and his fellow linemen in general, are doing quite well in run blocking there’s still room for improvement in pass protection. The left side of the line particularly, with center Tyler Biadasz also in the mix, grades out far better in the run duties than helping make life easier for QB Dak Prescott.
While Tyron Smith isn’t his peak self anymore, he is still one of the better left tackles in football when healthy. Not only could he upgrade that position and help keep Dak’s blind side better protected, but that would allow Tyler to take his mauling run blocking to guard and perhaps make him even more effective. It would also beef up the power in the middle of the line, where Connor McGovern sometimes struggles as a less physical blocker.
The Cowboys haven’t had any issues running the ball, boasting the eight-best rushing offense at 134.6 yards per game. While those numbers are helped by Tony Pollard’s breakaway plays, we’ve seen Dallas consistently gain with Ezekiel Elliott and even Malik Davis getting carries. If Tyler Smith moves inside, that should only improve their effectiveness on power runs and in short-yardage situations.
More time, bigger plays
But more importantly, improved pass protection could do wonders for the passing game. More confidence in his protection is good for Dak’s mental approach and execution. It should allow more time for receivers to get separation and work through routes, which has been an issue throughout the year. Fewer throws against tight coverage mean fewer turnovers and more time in the pocket means more opportunities for deeper pass attempts.
If Dallas was 3-6 instead of 6-3, perhaps they’d handle this a different way. If the season seemed lost, then leaving Tyler Smith at LT to prepare for his future would make sense. Given Tyron Smith’s injury history and contract, he’s almost assured to be a salary cap casualty this offseason regardless of how 2022 plays out.
But with Dallas still very much alive both in the NFC East and the wild card picture, bringing Tyron Smith back only makes sense. He can improve things at left tackle, make Tyler Smith even more effective as a guard, and leave guys like Connor McGovern and Jason Peters as solid depth for the remainder of the season. For a team still very much focused on its present goals and opportunities, the Cowboys have no reason not to bring him back and reap the immediate benefits.