Cowboys OL depth takes early blow with Matt Waletzko injury

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The Dallas Cowboys avoided going the veteran route this offseason; something that is unfamiliar in recent constructs of the offensive line depth. Normally the club has a veteran swing tackle on hand to back up the likes of Tyron Smith and formerly La’el Collins. In 2018 and 2019 it was Cam Fleming. 2020 brought on Cam Erving and 2021 saw Ty Nsekhe as the import. However 2020’s lost season for Collins brought about the starting career of UDFA Terence Steele, who subbed in for Collins during suspension in 2021 and led to the former LSU product’s release this past spring. As free agency came and went, Dallas decided against have the vet swing on the roster.

Part of that, as recently explained by executive VP Stephen Jones, is the club’s confidence in the young core of tackles they’ve accrued. First was 2021 fourth-round pick Josh Ball, who redshirted his rookie year. Dallas augmented that with Matt Waletzko, a fifth-round selection out of North Dakota. The club seemed genuinely excited about both of their prospects, but may now need to re-evaluate their stance on veteran depth. Waletzko suffered a shoulder injury in Thursday’s second practice of training camp and though surgery isn’t needed, will apparently miss several months.

For a small-school rookie, missing training camp can be a death sentence to the chance to contribute in Year 1. The speed and strength of the game is hard enough to acclimate oneself to. Missing the repetitions in camp and preseason and then trusting that guy on the edge to protect $40-million-a-year QB Dak Prescott is probably not going to be the wisest idea.

Dallas has a contingency plan, of course. First-round pick Tyler Smith was a tackle at Tulsa and is seen by some to be the presumptive heir apparent to Tyron Smith at left tackle. He could slide out if needed while Connor McGovern or another interior depth guy moves into the lineup at right guard.

Ball, according to Jones earlier in the offseason, is seen as a right tackle only for now and would backup Steele.

If Waletzko is kept on the offseason roster, the club will have the option to put him on the 53-man roster and then move him to IR. In that scenario, he can play sometime during the season. If the club places him on IR now, his season is over.

Aviante Collins and Amon Simon are the other tackles on the roster, with the latter being a UDFA out of Texas A&M Commerce and the former a fourth-year vet who spent time with New Orleans in the past.

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Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire