The next in a series of posts looking at each position group on the Dallas Cowboys roster, and determining just how much of a priority it will be this offseason. (The links to the rest of the series at the bottom)
Position Group - Offensive tackle
If you just went on talent alone, then the Cowboys wouldn’t have much to worry about at the tackle spot. Tyron Smith is elite, among the very best in the league at his position. La’el Collins improved dramatically as the season progressed and looks like he’ll develop into a solid right tackle. So it’s all good, right? Wrong. Smith’s injury woes have shaken up this position.
Tyron Smith, La’el Collins, Byron Bell, Chaz Green, Jarron Jones
Tyron Smith - He is considered one of the best in the business, and he is... when healthy. Over the last few seasons, he’s been missing time due to injury, and this past season he suffered multiple injuries before finally ending up on IR for the last game. Probably most concerning is Smith’s back problems, which can limit his practice time and reduce his effectiveness.
When Smith had to miss games, like the Atlanta game, the Cowboys line, and offense, fell apart. His presence in the offense is essential as the team is currently constructed. Having a viable replacement is a big priority this offseason.
La’el Collins - After being shifted outside to right tackle after playing inside at guard, Collins followed the pattern you would expect. He was a little shaky early on, but as the season progressed he started to look a lot more comfortable. He could absolutely be the Cowboys right tackle going forward, but could there be a scenario where he goes back inside? A theory being floated by some observers this offseason is drafting/signing a right tackle, and then have Collins drop back in at guard, solving the left guard issue. In that way, he could also serve as the swing tackle if needed, and the Cowboys could use a backup guard in his spot if needed.
Byron Bell - His limited time replacing Tyron Smith varied from spurts of being okay, to being a real liability. He was prone to giving up sacks and pressure, or getting called for holding to prevent a sack or pressure. He’s not a viable replacement.
Chaz Green - No, just no.
Jarron Jones - He’s on a reserve/futures contract and we have very limited information on his future.
Offseason Priority - High
The Cowboys have to find someone who can replace Tyron Smith if he runs into injury again this year. For the last two seasons Smith has missed games due to injury, so there is always the nagging doubt that this may become a regular thing. The Cowboys don’t have a viable swing tackle on the roster if Smith or Collins had to miss any amount of time.
As mentioned above, there is a school of thought that the Cowboys could draft a tackle and move Collins back inside. Then they could either use Joe Looney as the backup guard (if they re-sign him), or get someone else. The thinking is you then have a very capable swing tackle (Collins) who is starting at guard. The problem is you need a capable guard backup (probably easier to find than a tackle), and then you are switching Collins around again.
Whatever the Cowboys decide to do, it’s essential they solve this problem. This past season showed the team is not constructed to handle any absence from Smith.