Building and maintaining a strong offensive line has been a top priority for the Dallas Cowboys for a decade. Our next installment in this 2020 position preview series will cover the offensive tackles; one of the brightest spots on the entire Cowboys roster.
The Cowboys boast one of the league’s best pair of starting offensive tackles in Tyron Smith and La’el Collins. Age and injuries have slowed Tyron down a little but he remains one of the top left tackles in football. Meanwhile, Collins emerged as an elite right tackle in 2019.
When healthy, Smith and Collins are as good a duo as a team could hope for. But Tyron now misses three games on an annual basis and La’el had his own missed game last year, plus another he had to leave. Collins is also starting this 2020 camp on the sidelines with a minor injury, but still something to be monitored.
This puts a premium on the backup role, or “swing tackle” position, for the Cowboys. They paid veteran Cam Fleming well the last two years to handle that job and are now looking for his replacement.
The top candidate is another veteran and former 1st-round pick Cam Erving. He’s played every spot on the offensive line at some point since 2015 and most recently as a backup tackle for the Chiefs. Erving should be considered the current front-runner for the job, especially given the $2,5 million that Dallas paid to acquire him in free agency.
Also in the mix is Brandon Knight, who stepped in last year at right tackle when Collins went out and performed well. If he can prove the ability to also play on the left side, Knight could beat Erving for the job and save Dallas some cap room in the process.
There is a host of other OT prospects in Isaac Alarcon, Mitch Hyatt, Wyatt Miller, and Terence Steele all vying for potential depth positions and the practice squad. With little playing experience between them, everything rides on these next few weeks of practices.
OT Pre-Camp Rankings
- Tyron Smith
- La’el Collins
- Cam Erving vs Brandon Knight
- Mitch Hyatt vs Wyatt Miller
- Isaac Alarcon vs Terence Steele
Collins and Smith are clearly-established starters and leave no room for competition, nor has Dallas invested a draft pick on any potential contender to their jobs. As long as they keep performing at their current level there’s little to discuss.
Erving and Knight present an intriguing battle for the swing tackle job. Both have some position flex; we already mentioned Cam’s well-rounded experience and Brandon was also seen as a potential guard or tackle when he entered the NFL last year.
The ability to play on the left side is the key issue. Tyron Smith has the higher risk for missing time and the LT protects the quarterback’s blind side. Whoever can handle that duty better will likely win the job, even if the other is superior in some other areas.
Unlike when they had Fleming, though, the Cowboys aren’t all that committed to either of these players. There’s nothing that says one of the other prospects couldn’t rise up the depth chart with a strong camp; basically this year’s Brandon Knight.
That challenge will be easier for Mitch Hyatt and Wyatt Miler, who were both undrafted free agents last season and had the benefit of a year of grooming and physical development. Isaac Alarcon and Terence Steele are undrafted rookies in 2020 and missed a lot of the usual pre-camp work due to COVID-19.
It’s worth noting that in yesterday’s practice Wyatt Miller was getting first-team reps at right tackle with both La’el Collins and Brandon Knight on the sideline. That may tell us a little something about where he stands in the coaches eyes currently over the other prospects.
There will be plenty more of these news nuggets to decipher and add to our projections until final cuts. The good news is that Dallas has plenty of options in this 2020 camp to build a strong OT depth chart and provide security behind their shining starters.