FRISCO, Texas – When the Cowboys face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 12 nights, will first-round draft pick Tyler Smith be the fill-in starter for injured left tackle Tyron Smith?
"I think that's safe to say," Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said Tuesday on 105.3 The Fan.
"We've got to get him out here and get him practiced here over the next couple of weeks relative to any issue he had with a little high ankle (sprain). But we don't think that's serious enough to limit his preparation.
"Now, what is the case is he hasn't been there at left tackle. He is a rookie. But he's a first-round pick and he deserved to be a first-round pick in my mind. And so we knew – we just didn't want it come any earlier than it needed – but we knew we had to get ready to replace our left tackle and he was the pick."
Jones again expressed optimism that Tyron Smith, who underwent surgery last week for a torn hamstring, will be able to return "right in the meat of things," referencing the stretch run sometime after Thanksgiving.
But that still means the Cowboys will be without the eight-time Pro Bowler for a large chunk of the regular season. And it sounds like Tyler Smith, the 24th overall pick out of Tulsa in late April, will get the first opportunity to replace him, barring a setback before the Sept. 11 season opener at AT&T Stadium.
Tyler Smith missed practice last week with the ankle injury and did not play in the preseason finale against Seattle but got the “green light” to return to practice Monday, Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones told 105.3 The Fan.
After taking reps at left tackle behind Tyron Smith during OTAs and minicamp, Tyler Smith shifted to left guard in training camp to compete with Connor McGovern.
"We were looking for ways to get him on the field sooner and thought with Tyron coming into camp healthy – Tyron's one of the best in the business when healthy, if not the best – and that's why we were playing him (Tyler) at guard," Stephen Jones said. "But we really think his long-term future in the NFL is left tackle. That's why we drafted him in the first round to ultimately be our future left tackle."
Stephen Jones added that the Cowboys will continue to look for ways to improve the offensive line's depth. Opportunities could arise this week after teams around the league make their final roster cuts Tuesday.
"We feel good about where we're going and what our situation looks like," Jones said. "I say it always, we're always looking to upgrade our roster and certainly we'll look to continue to make ourselves better. Certainly, the offensive line is one where we aren't necessarily loaded with depth there but something that we'll continue to look at as things come to fruition over the next two or three days as teams are going to have expose a lot of players (to waivers).
"We'll look at that and we'll look at the veterans that are out there and see if we need to beef up right there."