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Tyler Smith’s development, versatility critical to Cowboys 2023 season

After a great rookie year, hopefully Smith can build on his already-high value for Dallas.

Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Tyler Smith hasn’t wasted any time giving the Dallas Cowboys a great return on their 2022 first-round pick. Now entering his second season, Smith’s ability to play multiple spots on the offensive line could easily be put to the test again.

When Smith was originally drafted a year ago, the plan was to play him at left guard while Tyron Smith and Terence Steele handled the tackle positions. But a preseason injury to Tyron forced the younger Smith into immediate duty at left tackle, where he stayed for the majority of the season. Dallas did try some things with veteran Jason Peters, but Tyler predominantly played on the left edge.

It’s generally assumed that Tyler will eventually become the full-time left tackle whenever Tyron’s gone, or when Dallas decides he’s the better option. That could even happen as soon as 2023; Tyler was running with the first-team offense in last week’s practices while Tyron played on the right side. Steele is still recovering from last year’s ACL injury.

If the Cowboys want their five best offensive linemen on the field, assuming they’re all ever healthy at the same time, it’s possible that could move Tyler back to guard for now. But given Tyron’s increasing lack of dependability, plus now Steele coming back from a major surgery, it’s entirely possible that Tyler Smith may have to wear multiple hats to get Dallas through this upcoming season.

Ideally, someone will step up at left guard to give the Cowboys more comfort there. Perhaps free agent Chuma Edoga, third-year prospect Matt Farniok, or rookie Asim Richards will get a chance to compete for the starting job. We’re still waiting to see exactly how Edoga and Richards will be utilized as either tackles or guards, but both have versatility.

But again, that’s the beauty of having Tyler Smith on the team right now. He can be your starting left tackle or left guard with ease; whatever makes the most sense based on the other personnel He covers a lot of ground and room for talent evaluation errors, injuries, or whatever else could limit Dallas’ options.

What’s more, there’s high potential for Smith to emerge as one of the NFL’s better offensive linemen in this second season. He’ll have to make a tremendous leap to match Zack Martin’s greatness, but it’s reasonable that Tyler will be the Cowboys’ second-best lineman in 2023.

Strong offensive line play has been a hallmark of Dallas’ success through the ages. Even if you haven’t been here that long, you miss the days when Martin, Travis Frederick, and a prime Tyron Smith were dominating the competition. Tyler Smith represents the Cowboys’ best chance to replace some of that lost prowess.

Of course, nothing is guaranteed as players continue their NFL journeys. We may look back on 2022 as Tyler’s best work. But based on what we saw last year, Smith should only grow and get better from here. And given the uncertainty around him, the Cowboys can’t afford anything less.

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