FRISCO, Texas – Tyron Smith finally spent some time late this offseason at left tackle, the position he played in all eight of his Pro Bowl seasons with the Dallas Cowboys.
The subsequent shift of Tyler Smith to left guard put the 2022 first-round draft pick back where he was a year ago before he moved to the left side after Tyron Smith tore a hamstring and missed the first three months of the season.
If the Cowboys are healthy on the offensive line and want to play their best five, it's likely to mean putting off the long-term plan of Tyler Smith protecting Dak Prescott's blind side, particularly when Terence Steele has recovered from a knee injury and is ready to play right tackle again.
“Luckily, just having those reps last year, it’s nothing new,” Tyler Smith said. “I think it’s good for staying sharp and having the best five out there. That’s really the point of emphasis right now is making sure we have those best five.”
Two spots are settled as the Cowboys pursue a third consecutive trip to the playoffs after losing at San Francisco in the divisional round last season. Six-time All-Pro Zack Martin is the right guard. Third-year starter Tyler Biadasz is the center.
When Tyron Smith was ready to return from the hamstring injury last December, Steele had already sustained a major knee injury that could sideline him through training camp, which starts in late July in California, and into the early part of the season.
Instead of moving Tyler Smith across the line to give the elder Smith his old spot back, the Cowboys put Tyron Smith at right tackle, where he stayed the final six games, including two in the playoffs.
The 32-year-old Tyron Smith hasn't played a full season since 2015, and has missed 33 of 50 games over the past three regular seasons because of injuries. His contract is up after this year, which means the permanent move of Tyler Smith to left tackle appears imminent.
No matter who much longer it lasts, Tyler Smith sees the time at left guard as an asset, including his start there last season in place of a struggling Connor McGovern for a wild-card victory at Tampa Bay when Jason Peters took over left tackle.
McGovern signed with Buffalo in free agency, triggering the question of a more permanent solution for 2023 at left guard for the Cowboys.
“It’s definitely like riding a bike,” Tyler Smith said. “It’s like those mountain bikes, where you’ve got to switch gears sometimes. Just staying sharp on it, it’s going to help me in the long run.”
When the two Smiths lined up side by side in an offseason practice this week, second-year player Matt Waletzko was at right tackle.
A healthy Steele could mean several tackle-trained linemen, including free agent pickup Chuma Edoga, are considerations at guard. Waletzko and Josh Ball, another tackle by trade, are both 6-foot-8, which is tall for a guard.
“When you’re looking at college athletes, you draft tackles because when do you move them down inside, their natural ability, and really the amount of reps they have in college, they have pass protection in their past,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “You have to be able to pass protect in this league. That’s a given.”
Tyron Smith signed a lengthy extension during training camp nine years ago — the contract that's about to expire. Tyler Smith appears to be next in line for that long-term left tackle deal. In due time, he says.
“I just finished year one,” Tyler Smith said. “That next contract, it’s a few years in the future. Just refining the fundamentals, being consistent, that's the biggest thing for me right now. I think that will help me in the long run in terms of what I bring to the team when that time comes.”