Welcome back to Cowboys on the Clock! We have had quite the run of players over the last couple of days. On Friday, we profiled our first hall of fame player to make the countdown in Bob “Mr. Cowboy” Lilly. We followed that up with Alvin Harper and DeMarcus Ware, before taking you beyond the clock yesterday with Dan Bailey.
There are now just nine days until the 2016 NFL Draft, and we pick things up with Dallas’ starting left tackle Tyron Smith.
Cowboys Nation certainly understands the commitment that this team has made to the offensive line. By investing waves of first round picks in the position, they changed their offensive identity to dominate teams on the ground, leading to 12 wins in the 2014 season.
Tyron Smith was the man out of USC that started this process, as he became the first offensive linemen off the board in 2011 when Jerry Jones called his name with the 9th overall pick on draft night.
Smith, who had to compete for all of his playing time in college (eventually starting three years at right tackle), was immediately named a starter with the Cowboys on the right side of the offensive line.
Doug Free anchored the left tackle spot for the 2011 campaign, while Smith started every game at right tackle. The Cowboys finished 8-8 and played for the division title in week 17 against the New York Giants, losing on the road.
Dallas would end up in the same position for the 2012 season, again finishing 8-8 following a week 17 loss in Washington – giving the Redskins the NFC East title and keeping the Cowboys out of the playoffs. This season, Smith started every game at left tackle while Free moved over to the right side.
Tyron shined in his second full season at left tackle in 2012, allowing just one sack all season long on his way to his first Pro Bowl. Despite his efforts, the team once again finished 8-8 with a week 17 loss that barred them from the playoffs.
Finally, the Cowboys broke through in 2014, winning 12 games and the NFC East thanks to their offensive line. Smith was joined by second-year center Travis Frederick and rookie right guard Zack Martin in leading DeMarco Murray to the league’s rushing title.
Smith made his second straight Pro Bowl, playing in the first year of his newly signed 8 year mega-contract. This past season would be his second year of the deal, as the Cowboys offensive line paved the way for Darren McFadden to gain 1,089 yards on the ground.
Unfortunately, the team was held back at the quarterback position, losing Tony Romo on two separate occasions and stumbling to a 4-12 season.
Still, Smith expects to be a consistent fixture of this talented Cowboys offensive line for years to come.
Tomorrow on “Cowboys on the Clock”: 2002 first round pick Roy Williams
I’m sure you are just as excited about the upcoming 2016 draft as we are here at Inside The Star, so be sure to check out our current draft content to prepare for April 28th right here! Check back here tomorrow and every day until draft night for my remaining countdown posts, and follow me on Twitter @ShoreSportsNJ. You can also leave feedback below the article or email firstname.lastname@example.org.