The Cowboys offensive line has been an extremely solid group in 2022. They’ve allowed just 14 sacks thus far, tied with Tampa Bay for the fewest in the league, and they’ve paved the way for Dallas rushers to earn 136.2 yards per game on average, for a top-10 ranking.
But there’s always room to improve, the saying goes. And that’s what it appears the Cowboys will attempt to do soon as eight-time Pro Bowler Tyron Smith nears his return to action after suffering an avulsion fracture of the knee in late August.
“Tyron will be at left tackle when he returns,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said on 105.3 The Fan on Tuesday morning.
Smith participated in rehab work at team practice on Nov. 10, but his official 21-day practice window has not been activated yet.
Tyron Smith at today’s Cowboys practice pic.twitter.com/zXojZxXG8H
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) November 22, 2022
If Jones’s declaration holds true, Smith, who will turn 32 in a couple weeks, will reclaim his normal spot from rookie Tyler Smith, the team’s first-round draft pick out of Tulsa this past spring. The younger Smith was primarily a tackle in college and was selected by Dallas to be their left tackle of the future… eventually.
So he spent most of training camp learning to play left guard, in hopes that he would be able to learn from the elder statesman alongside him until it was time to transition over.
That time came before the preseason had even ended, as Tyron’s injury placed him on injured reserve before the calendar had turned to September.
Tyler shifted back to his college spot and started Week 1 at left tackle, with Connor McGovern filling in at guard. McGovern played very well in camp and had been tracking toward starting there anyway (over Tyler) for the season opener; it was Tyron’s injury that opened the door for the rookie to grab a starting role.
But Jones says he’s not worried about the youngster sliding back to guard if that is the route the coaching staff elects to take.
“Easily,” Jones said of how he expects Tyler’s transition to unfold. “I don’t mean to make something difficult in the very essence of playing tackle or guard, but that’s what they were doing, giving him reps there in anticipation of that or giving him reps in anticipation of [Jason] Peters basically playing left tackle in situations and him playing guard. But position flex… is just tremendously valued in an offensive lineman, and we’ve got some great coaches out there, and they want to develop that flex all the way across that offensive line.”
The Cowboys seemed to be tipping their hand toward this plan last week, when Tyler Smith shifted to guard late in the game versus Minnesota. Jason Peters, the longtime Eagles lineman, then saw time at left tackle. Though he has been used sparingly since being promoted to the active roster for Week 3- he’s been in on just 12.4% of the offense’s snaps in 2022- Peters could potentially see even more action at tackle as Tyron Smith re-acclimates to game speed, allowing Tyler Smith time to ease back in at the guard position he spent the summer training for.