IRVING, Texas – As the Cowboys focus on the offseason, training camp is still in sight.
Coming off two straight 8-8 seasons and three full years removed from the playoffs, the Cowboys have plenty of question marks surrounding the team as they prepare for the 2013 season.
As we count down to camp, each day the writers of DallasCowboys.com will take a different question concerning the roster.
With 77 days until the Cowboys take the field in Oxnard, Calif., today's question centers on the left tackle spot:
77) How important is Tyron Smith at left tackle, among the upheaval along the rest of the offensive line?
Doug Free's future is entirely uncertain as we draw closer to the all-important June 1 cut date. The arrival of Travis Frederick via the NFL draft creates even more competition among the interior of the offensive line, which was either injured or underwhelming in 2012. We know what the tight end situation looks like, but with the Cowboys' stated commitment to use Gavin Escobar, it's anyone's guess which of the three tight ends will line up on any given play.
At this point in time, we only know two things: Tyron Smith will continue to anchor the left side of the line, and Tony Romo will take snaps behind it.
Smith has been the model of consistency since he was drafted ninth overall in 2011.He started all 16 games on the right side as a rookie, and he started all 15 games he appeared in at left tackle last year with a minor ankle injury hampering him slightly on the tail end of the season.
That isn't to say Smith was necessarily an All-Pro in 2012. He drew 12 flags from the left tackle position, and he contributed to plenty of breakdowns in pass protection -- though the consensus opinion seems to be that those are all growing pains as a result of the transition to left tackle.
Smith doesn't have to be the best left tackle in the game, thanks to Romo's scrambling abilities. But every other spot on the line has bigger question marks. He'd be doing everyone a favor if he could make himself a bright spot on the offense, rather than just a satisfactory player.
Sticking with our numerical journey to training camp, let's take a closer look at the number 77:
- 1977 was a big year for Dallas for two big reasons. Firstly, thanks to a massive draft-day deal orchestrated by Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm, the team secured the services of Tony Dorsett. Dallas gave up its first-round pick and three second-round picks to draft Dorsett second overall.
- It's safe to say that worked out, though. Dorsett played 12 seasons, 11 of them for Dallas. His 12,739 career rushing yards are fifth-best in history. He was a four-time Pro Bowler and a one-time All-Pro. Dorsett was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994.
- The Pittsburgh Heisman Trophy winner played a pivotal role in Dallas' other big 1977 moment. Dorsett won NFL Rookie of the Year honors with 1,007 yards and 12 touchdowns. Combined with Roger Staubach and a nasty defense, Dorsett helped carry the Cowboys to the Super Bowl XII championship by pummeling Denver, 27-10, in New Orleans.
- Smith is the Cowboys' current No. 77, hence the decision to write about him for our No. 77 entry. It's still early in his career, but a productive decade or so could secure him as the team's best 77. The competition isn't too stiff, with defensive linemen Larry Stephens and Bill Gregory providing the most competition.