With the offseason practices – both OTAs and minicamps – all done for the Cowboys this offseason, there is a lengthy break between now and the start of training camp, which begins July 24 in Oxnard.
But that doesn't mean there aren't questions on the table at each position. Each day, we will take a deep dive into each spot on the field, analyzing the top battles, the key players and some bold predictions. Today, we continue with the offensive tackles.
What needs to go right?: It seems as though every year we have the discussion about staying healthy up front, and that's no different in 2023 with the tackle group. Tyron Smith has missed at least three games in each season since 2015, and Terence Steele is coming off of a season-ending ACL injury that forced the Dallas offensive line to get creative late last season. Tyler Smith is always waiting as reliable depth, but that comes with sacrificing the depth at guard. It's probably not a matter of if someone goes down, it's unfortunately a matter of when and having a reliable plan when that problem does arise.
Biggest Question: Is Tyron Smith still an elite talent? For the entirety of his 13-year career, Smith has been relied upon each time he touches the field to seal off the edge and maintain a push with the most athletic and strongest edge rushers in the league. However, going into the final season of his contract before entering free agency in 2024, this can definitely be viewed as a pivotal season for the future Hall of Famer — to show that he can still be that reliable option at left tackle, both in terms of health and on-field performance.
Battle to Watch: Behind Tyron Smith at left tackle and Terence Steele at right tackle, there are a hodgepodge of names on the depth chart to rotate in and get reps that each could push for substantial playing time, especially if injuries arise to one or both of the starting tackles. Matt Waletzko has shown a lot of potential in minicamp and has proven to be a name to watch here, but the ceilings for rookies Asim Richards and Earl Bostick Jr. also give some potential flexibility.
Bold Prediction: Entering the final season of his rookie deal, Terence Steele has an opportunity in front of him to not only earn a big second contract, but to also cement himself as the right tackle for years to come in Dallas. Expect Steele to have a career season in year four and earn his value as the season goes on.
Biggest Challenge: Facing athletic edge rushers will always be a challenge in the NFL, but facing a pass-rushing group like the Philadelphia Eagles will be easily the biggest task of the season. The Eagles had three edge rushers finish in the top 11 of season-long PFF grades from last season (Sweat, Reddick, Graham) and in addition to returning that trio, the defending Super Bowl runner-ups will also be adding Jalen Carter and Moro Ojomo to the interior defensive line which will only allow for more pressure off the edge.
Key Stat: 27 - Despite a lot of juggling up front as a result of injuries last season, the Cowboys allowed only 27 sacks during the regular season which is the third-least allowed by the franchise since 2000.
Battle Lines Position Series: