As if the Dallas Cowboys weren't already hurting along the offensive line, Head Coach Mike McCarthy revealed on Friday that left tackle Tyron Smith is dealing with a neck injury. Though McCarthy wouldn't get into specifics as to the nature of the injury or Smith's availability for Sunday's matchup with the Atlanta Falcons it's a troubling revelation that hurts and already hurting offensive line if Smith's unable to play Sunday.
The injuries along the offensive line are a major problem. Kellen Moore and Mike McCarthy will have to find an offensive plan that limits the exposure of their two backup tackles. We saw last year against the New York Jets that playing without both your starting tackles can create offensive struggles that are too much to overcome, even against bad teams. And the Atlanta Falcons aren't a bad team.
It's unknown right now what Tyron Smith's availability will be for Sunday, but if he's unable to go, the Cowboys will be looking to their fifth offensive tackle to start for them. They're already playing Terrance Steele in place of La'el Collins, who's on injured reserve. Cam Erving was injured in last week's loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
If Tyron Smith's unable to go in week two, the Cowboys probably turn to Brandon Knight to fill in some at left tackle. In an appearance on 105.3 The Fan, Mike McCarthy voiced that his preference would be to not have to move players if he can help it. However, it might make the most sense to slide Connor Williams out from his left guard position to left tackle and use Connor McGovern or Brandon Knight at left guard. It's not ideal as you'd like to keep continuity somewhere along the offensive line. With Grady Jarrett coming to town it might be the best plan to maintain that continuity along the interior offensive line.
This week the Dallas Cowboys signed tackle Alex Light off of the Arizona Cardinals practice squad. Light spent his rookie season with Mike McCarthy and Joe Philbin in Green Bay and that familiarity could pay dividends for both Light and the Cowboys.
Heading into what will be a shootout with the Atlanta Falcons, the biggest question for the Dallas Cowboys is easily who will be playing tackle for them. Terrance Steel will be making his second start at right tackle. He played solid through the first three quarters of that game, but once the Cowboys were down late in the game, the Rams were able to take advantage of his inexperience at the end of the game. If Tyron Smith can't go, the offense will be at a serious disadvantage.
With scheme and personnel packages, the Cowboys can overcome the talent drop off at offensive tackle, but that will limit what they can do offensively, especially in the passing game. If they have to leave in extra blockers to help account for the Falcons pass rush, then that leaves just two or three pass catchers going out on routes for the passing game.
Three years ago, the Cowboys faced the Atlanta Falcons with a backup tackle playing in place of an injured Tyron Smith. The Cowboys gave up eight sacks in a blowout loss to the Falcons. The Cowboys will have to have a plan to help out whoever starts at left tackle for the Cowboy if Tyron Smith is unable to play.