Smith’s hamstring latest reminder of the fragility of Cowboys’ OL

And before a single down of regular season football was even played, Cowboys Nation was left holding their collective breath when Tyler Smith left practice on Monday with a hamstring injury.

Smith, the Cowboys starting LG, is seen as a budding star on the Dallas offensive line. Drafted in the first round of the 2022 draft, Smith brings a rare blend of size and athleticism to the Cowboys’ line. His ceiling is though the roof and together with Zack Martin he gives the Cowboys arguably the best guard duo in the NFL.

Behind Smith is where the concern lies. The Cowboys are regarded as a great offensive line in players one through five, but things fall off in a hurry soon after.

Fifth-round draft pick, Asim Richards, is likely to be the next man up should Smith miss time at LG. T.J. Bass, an undrafted rookie free agent, is another name on the roster who could temporarily fill in at guard. But two rookies, one a UDFA and one a Day-3 pick, aren’t exactly the ideal Plan B for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.

By most accounts, Smith’s injury is not expected to be a serious one so immediate fears have been calmed, but what happens next time when things are more serious?

The Cowboys offense is built on its ability to control the line. They like a balanced attack that can open holes and protect the passer. They saw firsthand how one missing piece could have a cascading effect across the line, hurting all layers of the offense.

That could explain their shift to a different blocking scheme in 2023.

Over the offseason, Dallas revamped their coaching staff, bringing in Mike Solari to lead the makeover up front. As K.D. Drummond broke down early in the year, Solari’s track record is a little bit of good and a little bit of bad.

Since the Cowboys never rolled out their starters in the preseason, everyone will have to wait and see how the unit performs in the new system and under a new coach.

It’s possible the new look will put less onus on the individual and more on the unit as a whole. This could theoretically allow them to cover a player loss easier than last season when everything came off the rails after Terrence Steele was lost.

Regardless of how it plays out with Smith’s hamstring, the injury is a reminder as to how fragile the offense is. One big injury can change everything in an instant.

In all fairness, this problem isn’t unique to the Cowboys. It seems every team in today’s NFL could use offensive linemen these days and very few teams are fortunate to have reliable depth players at their disposal.

The teams that win in the end are the teams that handles inevitable losses the best. Up until now, the Cowboys have struggled to handle their losses. Will things be different in 2023?

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Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire