When the Cowboys decided to move Tyron Smith from the right to the left side in 2012, I for one questioned the move for a few reasons. Smith was such a dominant Right Tackle as a rookie at the age of 20 and I saw flashes of a young Erick Williams. Also, moving him to the blind side of the quarterback at a position he had never played before was a major transition. I was skeptical of the move and felt somewhat vindicated after the 2012 season when he struggled and the combination of himself and Doug Free combined for 26 penalties. During the off-season, there were as many questions as there were answers when it came to Tyron Smith and the Cowboys’ offensive line.
But I have to credit to the Dallas Cowboys and their coaching staff. They had more patience and foresight than me and many other fans had just last year. The coaching staff allowed Smith to work through his struggles instead of pulling the plug on the transition. Let’s see how Tyron Smith did in pass protection in 2013:
Smith had 665 pass blocking snaps in 2013 and 95.7% of the time, his opponent got no pressure. Last year, Smith allowed no pressure on 93.3% of his snaps. That’s a 2.5% improvement with even more pass blocking snaps in 2013.
Where Tyron Smith wins is in his combination of power and athleticism. The Cowboys ask Tyron Smith to do things at left tackle that I don’t think I have ever seen before. I want to show you just one quick example of that. On the following play, Smith lines up on the outside shoulder of the defensive tackle and the Cowboys are asking him to not only to block the defender, but to also cross his face and seal the defender so Lance Dunbar will not be caught from behind. A missed block or not being able to beat his man to a certain spot will result in a very short gain. Take a look at what happens:
Smith does his job and Dunbar is clear to run in space. Every time I look at those three images, I am stunned at how Smith even got there. That is an incredible play from a 6’ 6” 310 pound left tackle.
But Smith isn’t perfect. Even after making the Pro Bowl in 2013, Smith will occasionally struggle with bull-rushes and will be driven back into the quarterback. Tony Romo’s interception against the Denver Broncos is a perfect example of this. Smith was walked back into Romo’s throwing lane and caused the quarterback to slip on Smith’s foot, just as he was releasing the ball. Smith also needs to continue to stay on his block a tad longer, because the quarterback in Dallas often makes it a habit of getting outside the pocket and extending plays. If Smith can continue to work on these issues and keep his quarterback upright and healthy, he will soon be mentioned as the NFL’s best offensive lineman. But here’s the thing; I’m not so sure he isn’t already. He is that good. And by the way, he just turned 23. The Cowboys have likely struck gold with Tyron Smith.