After back issues cost him three games in 2017 and hampered his usual elite play, Cowboys offensive tackle Tyron Smith says he is feeling “awesome.” This is great news for Dallas as the left tackle position caused some problems last year that may have cost them a playoff spot.
While still just 27 years old, Tyron is entering his eighth NFL season. He's been to the last five Pro Bowls but struggled last year with ongoing back problems. He also missed two games in 2016 with the same issue.
Hopefully, these recent comments indicating a return to good heath are accurate:
“Actually, I feel like I'm in the best shape I've been in a while. I've taken this offseason to get back into it a little early and try to take care of my body a little more. I'm just doing the little small things and I just feel awesome right now.”
With Dallas having to rely on the passing game more during Ezekiel Elliott's suspension, Smith's absence and weakened state exacerbated the problems for the offense. Dak Prescott was hit and pressured more than 2016, and it showed in his performance.
Of course, the first game we think of is Week 10 in Atlanta. In what will forever be known as the “Chaz Green Game,” Tyron's absence led to Green starting at left tackle and giving up six sacks to the Falcons' Adrian Clayborn. Prescott was sacked eight times total that day.
But the left tackle problems weren't isolated to that week. With the rushing threat gone and the receiving options getting older and slower, Dak Prescott was having to spend more time in the pocket. It was a perfect storm of issues that led to the sophomore slump Dallas' young QB experienced.
What's more, two years of back issues have led to some concerns over Tyron Smith's longevity. He's still young but the miles are starting to add up.
You might read something into the fact that Dallas did not restructure Smith's contract this year to free up some cap space. After restructuring Tyron's deal every year since 2014, the Cowboys appear to be leaving it alone this season.
If the back issues creep back up, Dallas may be trying to preserve their leverage for a future release. They could save about $5 million by releasing Smith next offseason and $8 million if they do it in 2020. Any restructuring would kill those cap savings.
If Tyron Smith has returned to normal health and can sustain it, that's a major win for the Cowboys. One of the benefits of making Smith the 9th-overall pick in 2011 was his youth and the prospect of having him for so many seasons. If he were to break down early, it would diminish the value of that pick.
If Dallas is going to get back to contention in 2018, left tackle needs to be a strength again. This update from Tyron is a great sign of that happening.