How Tyron Smith's absence for the rest of the 2020 season will affect Dak Prescott and the Cowboys' offense

The Dallas Cowboys are going to be without their two starting offensive tackles for the rest of the season.

Left tackle Tyron Smith will have season-ending neck surgery next week after he’s dealt with a neck injury through the early part of the 2020 season.

“Tyron will continue the process of going through surgery,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said Friday. “This is a correctable situation, so he will obviously not be available the rest of the season.”

It was unclear when Smith would be cleared for offseason workouts after having the surgery.

Smith has played in just two games in 2020. He played in Week 1 before missing the Cowboys’ games against the Falcons and Seahawks. He played in Week 4 against the Browns before re-aggravating his neck injury to the point where season-ending surgery was being considered.

Smith, 29, is a seven-time Pro Bowler. He’s signed with the Cowboys through the 2023 season.

La’el Collins also out for the season

Smith joins right tackle La’el Collins on the injured list. Collins hasn’t played in 2020 and will miss the season because of a hip injury. The loss of the Cowboys’ two cornerstone tackles is a huge blow to an offense that’s been one of the league’s best. And it’s an offensive line that already had center Travis Frederick retire over the offseason.

The Cowboys’ offense hasn’t been the issue in the team’s 1-3 start, however. The defense has been abysmal and has given up over 36 points per game through the first four weeks. That’s the most in the NFL.

Who’s up next?

Brandon Knight appears to be the man who will continue to slot in as the starter in Smith’s absence. He started at left tackle in the two games that Smith missed.

Terence Steele has been the Cowboys’ right tackle all season. Both Steele and Knight are 23 and were undrafted free agents. Knight is in his second year in the league while Steele is a rookie. They’re going to be counted on to continue to protect QB Dak Prescott and open up rushing lanes for Ezekiel Elliott if the Cowboys are going to try to turn their season around.

And while a defensive rebound is probably the most important key for the Cowboys to seize a wide open and not very good NFC East, competent offensive tackle play is also pretty high on the list. The Cowboys need to keep Prescott protected at all costs as he’s on pace to throw for over 6,000 yards this season because of the Cowboys’ constant need to play catchup in the second half.

Dallas’ rushing attack will also need to improve without Smith. The Cowboys’ two best games on the ground have been with Smith in the lineup. Dallas averaged five yards a carry in Week 1 against the Los Angeles Rams and 4.7 yards a carry against the Browns. Those yards per carry numbers are significantly higher than the 4.0 per carry and 2.9 per carry the team put up in the second and third games of the season without Smith in the lineup.

The Cowboys play the hapless 0-4 New York Giants on Sunday before hosting the Arizona Cardinals at the end of a three-game stretch at home. The team’s next two games are road contests at the Eagles and Washington Football team. Even without Smith, optimistic Cowboys fans will point to the next four games as reason to believe the team could be 4-4 at the halfway point of the season.

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 17:  Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle Tyron Smith (77) walks off of the field at the conclusion of a regular season game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Detroit Lions on November 17, 2019 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Tyron Smith is out for the year because of a neck injury. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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