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Tyron Smith’s Future Health Creates Red Flags Along Cowboys OL

Brian Martin

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Life without your starting left tackle isn't something an NFL team wants to go through at any point in the season. The Dallas Cowboys know this all too well after having to play the last two games without their All-Pro LT Tyron Smith.

The left tackle is arguably the most important position for any team, with the exception of quarterback. The LT is responsible for protecting the blindside of the QB and keeping them upright and healthy. That is why they are drafted so highly and are some of the top paid players in the league.

The Dallas Cowboys of course have arguably the best blindside protector in the NFL, which makes replacing him even that much more difficult. Tyron Smith has had to miss the last two games due to injuries and it is increasingly obvious just how important he is to have in the lineup.

Despite having two other All-Pro offensive lineman, the Dallas Cowboys offensive line really struggled against the Atlanta Falcons and the Philadelphia Eagles without Tyron Smith in the lineup. They couldn't get the running game going in either contest and Dak Prescott was forced to run for his life.

QB Dak PrescottNow, Tyron Smith will recover from the soft-tissue problems he's been having these last few weeks, but prior to these issues he was fighting through back problem that caused him to miss practice time this season. This is the same back issue he had last season causing him to miss games, which puts his future health in question and raises a few red flags for the entire Cowboys offensive line.

How many players around the NFL have we seen forced into early retirement because of their back problems. Tony Romo is the latest Cowboys player, but if Tyron Smith can't find a solution to his reoccurring back problems, he could join his former QB.

This is something that the Dallas Cowboys staff really should be concerned about. This team doesn't have someone who can step in for Tyron Smith and it's never been as obvious as it is now based on the last two games.

Unfortunately, starting caliber left tackles don't grow on trees. They are extremely difficult to to find, which is why they are drafted so highly and paid so extravagantly. That is why I believe the best solution is to go ahead and draft a starting caliber tackle capable playing on the either side, much like Tyron Smith did early in his career.

LT Tyron SmithYou see, drafting another tackle could solve all the problems with the Dallas Cowboys offensive line. The weak link on the Cowboys OL right now is the left guard position, but I think that gets solved by drafting a versatile tackle as well.

The first thing I would do is kick La'el Collins back inside to left guard. I think this is his best position, even though he has performed really well at right tackle this year. I would then insert the newly versatile tackle on the right side. This solidifies and upgrades the entire OL for the Cowboys.

Of course, having another versatile tackle capable of playing on either side provides insurance in case Tyron Smith continues to have reoccurring injuries. The Cowboys could always move the new rookie to the left side and Collins back to RT.

I understand that is a lot of shuffling, but with so many versatile linemen at the Cowboys disposal, they are more than capable of making these kind of moves. It's not the ideal way to handle things, but it's better than the options the Cowboys currently have.

Do you think Tyron Smith's future health is a concern?



Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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16 Comments
  • Bill_In_NC

    I haven’t heard anything about what the problem actually is with Tyron’s back. It’s hard to imagine that off season surgery (like Demarcus Lawrence) would not be an option. I don’t know of too many back issues that just ‘get better’ on their own.

    • Brian Martin

      I’m not sure exactly what the problem is either. But one thing is for sure, the need to try some way to get it fixed.

  • Albert Smith

    Off-season surgery should’ve been done a couple of years ago therapy isn’t working, get it taken care of so that it’s no longer an issue.

    • Brian Martin

      It depends on what the actual problem is. Surgery could make it worse and it could just be a tolerance thing. I don’t know for sure, but something likely needs to be done.

      • Albert Smith

        He either has lumbar a strain or a lumbar spine arthritis which are the main contributors for back stiffness. That’s been the issue he’s been dealing with, so it would be a lot better to really be shut down for an elongated period of time meaning more than a couple of weeks or every Wednesday that doesn’t seem to be working and considering how things are looking you might want to bring up Kellen Moore up and shut down your key guys have a another good draft and move forward from there.

        • Brian Martin

          I don’t see the Cowboys throwing in the towel and sitting there starters. I think they will continue to fight, even if there is an much hope of reaching the playoffs.

      • Brady101

        I understand it’s a severe pinched nerve which runs that numbs his foot and toes..

        • Brian Martin

          There are a lot of conflicting reports about Smith’s injury. I honestly don’t know what the truth is. Hopefully it’s just a matter of rest and he can get back to 100%

  • Randy Martin

    While I have been doing mocks drafts for a month or more I don’t know how many “can’t miss” LT’s there are in this draft. The two biggest names Connor Williams, Texas and Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame seem to be the most highly touted but as you know, LT is a building block, and depending on draft position, they could be gone. I think we have two other pressing needs in LB and WR so I think our 1st rounder needs to be spent on one of those positions. Of course, it kind of depends on what we do with Lawrence and Irving. It’s a good thing we have 11 draft picks as we need as many chances as possible to plug the dam!

    • Brian Martin

      You’re right that LB and WR are probably higher priorities. But, I think LG and possibly T aren’t far behind. The tackle position is only a concern if Smith’s back issues are cleared up. I’m really starting to look forward to the draft already. I think I enjoy that more than the actual season LOL

    • Albert Smith

      The tackle class is much more thinner than last years draft class, more depth at guard.

      • Brian Martin

        That’s what I’m hearing. I haven’t started studying players yet for next year’s draft.

  • TreFKennedy88

    Tyron’s back has been an issue since 2015-16 season, it should have been taken care of at that time

    • Brian Martin

      If the Cowboys end up being out of the playoff race, I would shut down Tyron Smith. He’s too valuable to the team and needs to get healthy.

  • Russ_Te

    Smith may have some good years left, but even if so Dallas has no solution behind him for OT, and that one fact has blown this season up. So, yep it’s probably top draft priority > OT, RDE, WR / best available 1st round.

    Keep in mind that finding a quality LG is do-able / both Nate Newton and Ronald Leary were UFA walk-ons. So I keep trying there before moving Collins back to LG. Unless I hit on a project OT first.

    Now Then: Let’s look at whether it was a deft f’ing idea to play Green and then Bell at LT when Smith went out. Offensive coaches know those guys do not have lateral OT movement, sufficient to guard Dak’s blind side. Other moves? I’m flipping Collins over there first and Green or Bell to the less risk-prone RT spot.

    Pretty sure Zack Martin can play OT also. I probably also would have done that and put Green in his spot, as a stopgap until Smith gets back.

    Thanks Garrett, for making no adjustments when your team needs them. Butler, Gathers, Switzer – same thing. No new options in the route trees, when your starters are not getting open and Dak is getting killed. It’s rather clear now that defenses have solved the present passing-game model. They are have no problem stopping it. You have to change some of it out.

    • Brian Martin

      I’m only moving Collins if the Cowboys draft a tackle who can start right away. Otherwise, I’m keeping him at RT. I don’t think Collins would fare any better on the left side unfortunately.

Game Notes

Cowboys Focused on Improved Communication to Solve Road Woes at Redskins

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Focused on Improved Communication to Solve Road Woes at Redskins

The Dallas Cowboys are 0-3 on the road this season. Not only do you already know this, but they do as well, needing to build off a 40-7 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in week 6 at AT&T Stadium to claim first place in the NFC East at the Washington Redskins.

Although the Cowboys were given Monday and Tuesday off, they are focused on addressing one alarming reason why the team has struggled so much on the road -- particularly on offense.

Running Back Ezekiel Elliott pointed out the Cowboys lack of communication in early season losses at Carolina, Seattle, and Houston. "Seeing the same thing," was the issue Elliott addressed when discussing the Cowboys knowing their assignments in hostile territory.

Yesterday, Quarterback Dak Prescott told the media of a meeting between players and coaches that addressed this specifically.

David Moore on Twitter

Dak Prescott said players & coaches held a meeting before today's practice to "address the elephant in the room," which is poor communication among the offense on the road. "I know we'll take a lot from that conversation," The QB said.

Unlike Prescott's remarks about new "wrinkles" in the Cowboys offense prior to a 26-24 home win over the Lions, this has a tangible sign of progress for an offense that made scoring 40 on the Jaguars look impossibly easy. The Cowboys season high in total yards remains the 414 amassed against Detroit, after which Prescott confessed that he simply tells the media "things" that aren't necessarily true.

The Cowboys didn't necessarily do anything new against the Lions, but they most assuredly will this week against the Redskins, at least by way of signaling and remaining in sync on offense.

Prescott and Elliott's leadership is on full display here, and their on-field impact can be attributed as closely to the Cowboys successes or failures as any duo in the NFL.

Missing is a similar impact from Center Travis Frederick, who remains sidelined as he deals with GSB.

Joe Looney's play at center has been good enough to pave the way for Elliott's 586 rushing yards so far, second to Todd Gurley at 623 yards, but his ability to call checks for the offense is understandably much more limited.

Looney deserves all the credit in the world for his strong play in place of Frederick. The Cowboys have never asked for him to be anything he isn't, a reliable depth option that earned a second contract and with it the starting center job for the time being in Dallas.

He has the full support of his teammates, Frederick included. All of this is lovely to put down in writing until Looney and the Cowboys have been forced to step on the field with the crowd against them and attempt to sustain a drive, something Frederick will unfortunately not be a part of for a long while.

If the Cowboys offense isn't going to unveil new wrinkles in the scheme, there is one wrinkle worth mentioning that's new to the team's communication on offense this season. With Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan up in the box, his play calls are sent down to first-year Quarterback Coach Kellen Moore, who has been in the ear of Prescott ever since playing with him from 2016-17.

Sure, these are things that could've been addressed before the Cowboys managed only eight points in week one, turned the ball over three times in week three, or punted away their best chance at victory in week five. The best teams in the league likely already have these things down to routine, and few would consider the Cowboys anywhere near the upper echelon of the NFL.

Following sixty minutes of football at a division rival they've won four in a row against, with an even more impressive five game win streak at the Redskins, the Cowboys could control their own path atop the NFC East.

That feels truly incredible for such a young team faced with a steep learning curve early in the season, adjusting to it on the fly as they prepare to leave everything on the field before a bye week.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Focused on Improved Communication to Solve Road Woes at Redskins" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Game Notes

#WASvsDAL: Why This Game Holds Increased Importance

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Pass Rush Better than They're Given Credit For
James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

It feels incredibly cliche to call the week 7 match-up between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins a "must win." Especially for someone like me who values statistics, logic, and analytics in sports.

But when the analytics agree with the narratives, those narratives do tend to get my attention. And this week that would appear to be the case.

According to Brian Burke of ESPN, the Cowboys's week 7 game has the highest playoff probability leverage in the entire NFC, and is second to only the Houston Texans' big game with Jacksonville around the entire league.

Brian Burke on Twitter

Playoff leverage for week 7. DAL, WAS, PHI, CAR, MIN, CHI with a lot on the line in the NFC. HOU, CIN, and JAX in the AFC.

What does this mean? Well playoff probability leverage is pretty intuitive. Basically it is the difference between a win this week and a loss this week in terms of probability to make the playoffs.

For the Cowboys that number is at 27%, with a win over Washington catapulting their playoff probability over 50%. On the other hand, a loss would take a big hit to their playoff hopes just 7 games into the NFL season.

As you might expect, this game means a lot to the Redskins' playoff probability as well. Their playoff leverage this week is at 14%, but a win would mean "more" to Dallas than Washington based on the probabilities.

Fellow NFC East foe, the Philadelphia Eagles, also have a lot to gain/lose this Sunday, with their leverage sitting at 22%. According to Burke's model, the Eagles and Cowboys have the best chances of making the playoffs at this point, but if each team wins Sunday the Eagles will still have a higher percentage.

Of course a lot can and will change week to week, despite what the metrics say. The Cowboys still have two games remaining with the NFC East favorite Eagles this year, and will get another crack at Washington at home later in the season. Plus the Cowboys have a few NFC wild card and playoff contenders remaining on their schedule, such as the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons. (Yes, the 2-4 Falcons are very much alive in this crazy conference).

Still, the difference between 4-3 (2-0 in the division) and 3-4 (1-1 in the division) is huge, as is shown by Brian Burke's playoff probability leverage metric.



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Player News

Cowboys WR Tavon Austin Skipping Surgery, May Return in 2018

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys WR Tavon Austin Skipping Surgery, May Return in 2018

A groin injury sustained last week against Jacksonville won't send Tavon Austin to injured reserve, at least for now. The Dallas Cowboys receiver has elected to forego surgery at this time, giving him a chance to return to action in 2018.

There was concern that Austin could land on IR initially following the Jaguars game, but he sought a second opinion this week. It appears that this new information was enough for Tavon and the Cowboys to decide that surgery can wait.

Rob Phillips on Twitter

Sounds like WR Tavon Austin will not have surgery at this time after getting a second opinion on his groin injury. He could miss a few weeks, however. #cowboyswire

Austin should miss this Sunday's game with the Washington Redskins. He has been the team's punt returner this season and a useful tool on offense, playing mostly receiver but also lining up the backfield at times.

Despite his limited opportunities, Tavon is tied with Cole Beasley for the team lead with two receiving touchdowns in 2018.

How long Austin will remain out is unknown at this time. After the Washington game, Dallas will have their bye week and then host the Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football.

Both of these are games that the Cowboys, feeling good after a blowout victory over Jacksonville, should be able to win without Austin. But they would certainly like him back for the Week 10 road game with the Philadelphia Eagles.

In Tavon's absence, Cole Beasley will likely field punts. We may see more of Deonte Thompson in the speed routes that Austin ran on offense, though Dallas could also finally see what recently returned Brice Butler has to offer.

With an expiring contract this year, Tavon will likely want to get back soon and trying to improve his stock for the 2019 offseason. Hopefully, he can still have a positive impact on his value and the Cowboys season in the weeks ahead.



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