On Thursday afternoon, there was some discussion that the Dallas Cowboys were possibly considering doing something that wasn’t the conventional wisdom. What is it you ask? No big deal. Just playing Tyron Smith at right tackle, you know, the position he hasn’t played since 2011. All while making his debut on the season in mid-December. This is a totally normal thing.
Sunday will mark the 12th game of the season for the Cowboys and Tyron Smith has not played in any of them due to a hamstring injury that he suffered in what were literally the final moments of training camp. Smith will one day have a bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for how well he has played the left tackle position in Dallas over the last decade, and so conventional wisdom suggested that he would return to that very post.
Tyron Smith is expected to play on Sunday and possibly start at right tackle
When the Cowboys opened Smith’s 21-day practice window last week it suggested that he would play his first game in Jacksonville. Obviously, it made more sense for him to return to the left tackle position which would allow Tyler Smith, the team’s first-round draft pick, to play the left guard spot that Dallas envisioned him at for his rookie season.
The calculus surrounding all of this changed this past Sunday when starting right tackle Terence Steele tore his ACL and MCL. Dallas is suddenly full of options at left tackle and void at any on the other side. Technically speaking the Cowboys have Josh Ball and Jason Peters to choose from, but the former has not proven to be reliable in any sort of real way, and the latter might not physically hold up for what hopefully will be at least a seven- or eight-game run including the playoffs.
The Cowboys considered all options, including the one in keeping Tyler Smith at left tackle and inserting Tyron on the right side. The benefit to this strategy is it allows Connor McGovern to stay at left guard, and McGovern at left guard is a much more sound idea than Ball or Peters at right tackle.
Clearly the team feels this way to a certain degree as noted by the report earlier on Thursday afternoon, but Thursday evening there was the report from The Dallas Morning News that Tyron will play this week, and might even start at right tackle.
Last Sunday, Cowboys lost starting right tackle Terence Steele to a season-ending knee injury. The unfortunate development forced the team to examine all right-tackle options, taking both a short- and long-term view at what gives the franchise its best chance to win. The process resulted in Smith’s move to right tackle, where he is expected to appear and possibly start Sunday at the Jacksonville Jaguars.
It is very likely that the Cowboys will test out multiple combinations along the offensive line this week due to the fact that they are very likely playing beyond the regular season. Nobody is trying to diminish the importance of the remaining four games, but the playoffs are the primary focus for this team. If the Cowboys are going to tinker and adjust, now is obviously the time to do so.
And while the Cowboys are far less likely to repeat as NFC East winners or secure the top seed in the NFC, the possibility for those things does still exists, but in order for them to become reality the Cowboys will have to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles on Christmas Eve. Throwing Tyron Smith into the proverbial deep end of the pool by playing him at right tackle (where he hasn’t played since his rookie season of 2011) against the Jaguars is much more preferable than against the Eagles.