FRISCO, Texas — Either the Cowboys truly haven't decided on who'll be the official starter at left guard for 2022, as rookie first-round pick Tyler Smith continues his battle with Connor McGovern for the role, or they're employing a bit of gamesmanship with the regular season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drawing near, though there's also a chance it's all of the above.
The prevailing question is [again] if Smith will be named starter at left guard, but McCarthy doesn't see that being the case … yet.
"Those decisions aren't made," said McCarthy on Wednesday, leaving the door open for a change of heart before carefully positioning his next several sentences on the matter. "If we started today, Connor [McGovern] would start [at left guard]. Obviously, Tyler is coming on strong and has done some good things. Tyler is just like the rest of our rookies, he needs reps to get better."
Making things that much more interesting will be how the Cowboys will utilize McGovern against the Seahawks, because it mostly (?) won't be at guard on Friday evening.
"Connor's done a lot of good things - took some snaps [in Tuesday's practice] at center, and we'll try to potentially get him some work on Friday night [versus the Seahawks] at center," McCarthy added. "He's been a center for us [at times] last year … those are the kinds of things we'll talk about."
McGovern himself confirmed on Wednesday that the plan is to name him starter at center to finish out the preseason against the Seahawks, making both that and the left guard position something to watch, and especially if Smith is ruled out (and he likely will be).
First things first, of course, and that's Smith finding his way back to the field which, as noted above, seems doubtful for Friday. He is currently nursing what's been described by both head coach Mike McCarthy and owner Jerry Jones as a "minor" ankle injury - neither having any concern at all regarding the severity of it.
Smith didn't participate in practice on Wednesday and instead remained with the rehab group, but, barring some sort of setback between now and Sept. 11, there are currently no roadblocks to his coming NFL debut on Sept. 11, at least not physically.
And when McGovern is playing those other roles during the regular season - be it center or fullback -, where will Smith be?
"We'll get there when we get there," said McCarthy. " … I don't think you take a rookie and line him up [right now] as a starter, either. That's why you have competition - guys competing for a position. It's only going to make us better at the left guard position, and then you have the different combinations. Connor has also done the big tackle for us - the tight end - all of those things are still viable."
It goes without saying that the Cowboys do not have a regular season game today, and not for another 18 days, and the mention by McCarthy of McGovern's ability to play multiple roles, along with the preseason test at center, can't be ignored here.
"Connor also has value at other positions, which I value a lot," said McCarthy. "I think he's a damn good fullback. I think he'll line up at fullback 10 or 12 plays [per] game and that's something you recognize moving forward. We will look at all those things.
"It's a long season."
Again, the door remains wide open for McCarthy to change his mind, be it in two weeks or in two months.
It's great to know the Cowboys aren't prematurely dug into shelving their first-round pick to begin the 2022 season, but it's also fair to point out the previous three offensive linemen who got the nod as a first-round pick in Dallas - i.e., Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin - all logged 16 starts in their respective rookie seasons.
Then again, neither of them were drafted in the McCarthy era, so time will tell if the club will break that trend with Smith; or if they're simply keeping the Buccaneers (and everyone else) guessing.