It feels like only yesterday when the offensive line of the Dallas Cowboys was in turmoil. The team lost starting left tackle Tyron Smith for most of the season after he injured his leg in training camp. We got to see our first glimpse of unproven youngsters Josh Ball and Matt Waletzko in preseason action, and it wasn’t pretty. And even the team’s prized draft pick Tyler Smith was initially moved inside to left guard to replace the departed Connor Williams, and his play was a mixed bag as there were some promising reps, but also some plays that needed to be cleaned up. Suffice it to say, this created a very uneasy feeling for Cowboys fans who were hoping to see an improved offensive line this season.
Enter Jason Peters.
We discussed this idea during Tuesday’s BTB Roundtable on the Blogging The Boys podcast network. Make sure to subscribe to our network so you don’t miss any of our shows! Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.
While many of us were hoping to see a veteran free agent signing join the team sooner, the addition of Peters was still a welcoming sight. At 40-years-old, he’s certainly not the player he used to be, but is still a viable blocker at the tackle position. The only downside is that now we just have to wait until the veteran can get up to speed and be ready to take the field.
Oddly enough, things have changed since the Peters signing, and they’ve changed for the better. In fact, what we’ve seen over the past two games might provide enough of a case to just keep Peters on ice for the time being.
1. Moving Tyler Smith from left tackle would impede his growth
I’ll be the first person to admit I was wrong about the Tulsa tackle. He looked raw coming out of college and just seemed like a player that would need a lot of work before he could be relied on to block consistently without getting flagged for holding penalties (which plagued him in college).
Smith had a solid first game in Week 1 against a really good edge attack of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He did some things well, and other things not-so-well. In fact, Check out a breakdown of 22 plays from that game to illustrate some of his pros and cons in that performance.
As solid as he was right out of the gate, Smith looked even better against another formidable edge attack from the Cincinnati Bengals. You can see the young tackle starting to get more comfortable and it’s only going to improve from this point on.
There was a time when what Peters could give the team right now exceeded what they could get from Smith early on, but Smith is trending up and he’s trending up fast. They are already close in what they can provide, so why not let things run their course and allow Smith to improve? If he keeps developing at this rate, he’ll be the better of the two by midseason.
2. McGovern is coming back soon
One of the big reasons people are advocating to get Peters in at left tackle is to upgrade the left guard spot by sliding Smith back inside. That’s logical as second-year reserve guard Matt Farniok is the clear weak link along the offensive line. If Farniok was expected to be the guy for an extended period of time, then that would make sense, but he’s not. McGovern should be back soon and he could be back right around the same time when Peters is ready to see the field.
It’s worth noting that McGovern has looked a lot better this preseason and he’s not the liability that Farniok is. We have to entertain the possibility that the Smith-McGovern left side combo might be the strongest arrangement. We assume Peters is still a good player at tackle and we assume Smith could play left guard just as well as he’s playing tackle, but we don’t know that for sure. What we do know is Smith is playing well at tackle and McGovern has played well at guard, so why mess with that when those guys are only going to get better?
3. Chemistry is important
For the past two seasons, the Cowboys have repeatedly shuffled around their offensive line as they scratched and clawed to find the best arrangement. This has made things really challenging when it comes to building any type of cohesiveness along the offensive line. Right now, they have a good group of young players and Zack Martin. This group is starting to work well together and they are getting a better sense of where they are supposed to be. You can’t overstate how valuable that is. A line that blocks together, wins together, and this young group looked very impressive on Sunday against the Bengals.
We're not talking about it enough, but the Cowboys' offensive line did a great job working together and held their own against a very good Cincy front. pic.twitter.com/JykX1vhC9y— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) September 20, 2022
Rookie Tyler Smith seals off the linebacker and the pulling Tyler Biadasz makes Eli Applesauce to help spring Tony Pollard for a big run. pic.twitter.com/D4CUMrvNen— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) September 20, 2022
The Cowboys have played two really good defensive fronts to start the year and these guys have held their own. Things are only going to get easier for them as they build more chemistry and the strength of opposition weakens.
4. Preserve Peters’ health
Having a veteran like Peters as your swing tackle is a good get, but expecting him to hold up week after week as your starter might be a tall task. In fact, if you look at his availability over the last several years, it looks very similar to another future Hall of Fame left tackle.
Games missed...— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) September 2, 2022
Tyron Smith first 5 seasons = 1
Tyron Smith last 6 seasons = 32
Jason Peters during his 9-straight Pro Bowl stint = 12
Jason Peters since (last 5 seasons) = 22
Smith hasn't played a full season in the last 6 years, but Peters hasn't either in 4 of his last 5.
Rather than throwing him out there and expecting him to hold up for an entire season, why not keep him on the shelf until he’s needed? If Peters is not the clearly better choice, and he might not be, then just keep him on the bench and use him only if needed.
5. Great left tackles are harder to find
If Tyler Smith can play left tackle at a high level, but also play left guard at a high level, that’s fantastic. But with all things being equal, that should signal that he is now the Cowboys new left tackle. The left tackle position is one of the “money five” positions and quality tackles don’t grow on trees. If the Cowboys have an opportunity to harness the greatness of yet another future star tackle, who is just 21 years old, right as Tyron Smith appears on his way out, then you play him at tackle and thank your lucky stars!