While it is relatively early in the offseason, and we’re still a few months before the preseason, some compelling news emerged from the recent OTA sessions. First, Tristan Vizcaino, the only kicker on the roster, was six-of-eight on his field goal attempts. Running back Tony Pollard also said that he would be ready to participate once training camp begins. Also, it appears that second-year offensive linemen Matt Waletkzo will have an opportunity to have a sizeable role this season.
Cowboys OT Matt Waletzko is not only spelling Tyron Smith at right tackle but occasionally flipping inside to left guard. New OL coach Mike Solari taking long look at the 2022 fifth-round pick, who is fully cleared from the shoulder injury that sidelined him most of rookie year.— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) June 1, 2023
Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News reported on Twitter that Waletzko is serving as the backup right tackle for Tyron Smith and also sliding inside to play some at left guard. Despite being drafted in the fifth round of last year’s draft, Waletzko garnered some attention as a prospect to watch before his rookie season was cut short by an injury last October. At 6’8”, 320lbs, Waletzko has no shortage of size to play anywhere along the offensive line. As for playing guard, the team must also feel good about his playing strength to line up at left guard. This news is noteworthy for a few different reasons.
For starters, it’s paramount for the Cowboys to have a viable option at swing offensive tackle. Unfortunately, Dallas has been left in a precarious position in the past due to the health of long-time starter Tyron Smith. A trigger warning for Cowboys Nation, but seasons have been derailed due to Smith’s backup not being an adequate replacement, so the coaching staff and front office understand how important it is to find the right solution behind Smith. Once again, it is early in the offseason, but Waletzko getting this early chance speaks volumes about the trust the coaching staff has in his ability.
Also, when you examine the guard position, this has significance. As it stands, last year’s top draft pick, Tyler Smith, has moved inside to left guard during OTAs and played every first-team snap at the postion. Now the question is who steps up as the primary reserve in that spot if Smith is named the starter at that spot? The team added Chuma Edoga in free agency and Asim Richards in the draft to provide depth at the position. Waletzko seeing snaps at guard could solidify his spot on the team this season and, in the best scenario, see him potentially as the top backup offensive lineman heading into this season.
Terence Steele is only under contract for one more season after signing his second-round tender earlier this spring, as is Edoga. Tyron Smith is long in the tooth, and his time in Dallas is unlikely to last much longer. Depending on the team’s long-term plans as to where they want to play Tyler Smith, Waletzko could have a solid chance to play himself into a starting job in 2024 if he can make a lasting impression in 2023.