Do you remember the optical illusion of sorts that hit the internet a few years back? Maybe even a decade? Where people could not decide if a dress in a photo was black and blue or white and gold? Personally speaking I am team black and blue, but make the call for yourself.
It feels like the Dallas Cowboys have a similar sort of illusion/discussion/situation brewing with second-year offensive lineman Tyler Smith. Is he a left tackle? Is he a left guard? Is he an all-world lineman that can do it all? If the case is the final one then as great as that is that really means nothing given that he can only play one position at every given moment.
Last week’s OTAs saw Smith work at left tackle which was a step in one particular direction (Tyron Smith was at right tackle while Terence Steele sat out... but it still feels a bit early to chisel the depth chart names down in stone). To be clear this is sort of (using that word loosely) a good problem to have, but it invites confusion which none of us like.
Let’s talk about something simple then. Tyler Smith is awesome.
Tyler Smith was named to NFL.com’s ‘All-Breakout’ Team for 2023
The way that Smith stormed onto the season last year felt a little bit different than when his predecessor Tyron did 12 years ago (how has it been that long?).
Tyler Smith did not have the most stellar rookie season of any Cowboys lineman in recent memory (Zack Martin was robbed of OROY in 2014) but he absolutely made his name known in NFL circles. Entering year two he has clearly raised the bar and expectations are now different.
Recently NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks put together an “All-Breakout” team for this coming season comprised of players who have never made an All-Pro or Pro Bowl that he believes are slated to have big seasons in 2023. Tyler Smith was his pick... as a guard.
Billed as a raw athlete following his selection as the No. 24 overall pick last year, Smith exceeded expectations by displaying versatility and positional flexibility as a rookie. Smith’s ability to seamlessly flip-flop between guard and tackle helps Mike McCarthy put his best five blockers on the field. In addition, Smith’s impressive work on the edges gives the Cowboys an insurance policy to protect against another Tyron Smith injury at left tackle. The younger Smith could really see his star rise with continued technical refinement in 2023.
If Smith does see a majority of work at left tackle then the opportunity for accolades is going to be even higher given the nature of the position. The goal is obviously not All-Pro or Pro Bowl nods, but they are cool and we obviously want them for Cowboys players.
It makes sense to buy his stock entering 2023 as he looks like one of the next best offensive linemen across the league as a whole. When you say it out loud like that it is obvious why the Cowboys seem so keen on keeping him at left tackle.
Smith, of course, “replaced” Connor Williams at left guard last year after Williams left in free agency to the Miami Dolphins. Incidentally Williams was also listed in this group... at center of all places.
Credit Mike McDaniel and his staff for unlocking Williams’ potential with a move to the pivot. The former second-round pick thrived in his first season with the Dolphins after an up-and-down four-year tenure as a guard with the Cowboys. Williams’ intelligence, strength and power stabilized Miami’s front and helped the team make the playoffs for just the second time in the past 14 seasons. With the veteran anchoring a rebuilt offensive line that steadies an explosive attack, the football world should give the rugged blocker his props for his overall improvement as a player. In his second year as a center, Williams could be in position to receive individual accolades.
That was unexpected to say the least.