*Editor's Note: Throughout the off-season, DallasCowboys.com staff writers will take a closer look at the roster, analyzing players' impact last season and how each fits into the team's 2014 plans. Today's Roster Rundown entry features left tackle Tyron Smith.)*
Name: Tyron Smith
Position: Left Tackle
Height/Weight: 6-5 / 321
Experience: 3 seasons
College: Southern Cal
Key stat:Smith decreased his penalty count by nearly 40 yards in 2013, where he had just seven flags all year for 25 yards. In 2012, he was one of the more penalized players in the league with 11 flags for 66 yards.
Contract Status:Signed through 2014 (Cowboys have a May 3 deadline to pick up a fifth-year option through 2015)
2013 Impact: I have to admit, if had told me that Tyron Smith was going to have a Pro Bowl season after the way that DeMarcus Ware battled him each day in Oxnard, Calif., I would have said you are out of your mind.
As bad as things were for Smith in camp with his technique, as Ware broke him down, he was able to find ways to battle through and still play with confidence that he was going in the right direction. To Smith's credit, each day he took what Ware gave him and by the time the team opened the season against the Giants, those struggles that we observed in camp were a distant memory.
Where Tyron Smith made his biggest improvement from one season to another in my opinion was his work on his run blocking. He has always been one of those tackles that was light on his feet and handled his assignments as a pass blocker, but when you went back and studied the success that this offense had running the ball, the majority of it came behind the work of Smith and Ronald Leary.
In this zone scheme the Cowboys use, Smith is the perfect fit because it is rare that you see him ever on the ground. He gets movement at the point with his ability to come off the ball, engage the defender and then he pushes with power and balance. The more he has to play in space, the better he was able to execute his blocks. It didn't matter if he was on the front side making a reach block or on the backside with a cut off, DeMarco Murray was able to take ball off his block. There were plenty of plays during the season where the point of attack wasn't blocked as clean and Murray might not have had a place to run but with Frederick, Leary and Smith on the backside, they were able to create a lane and take a negative play and turn it into a positive one. [embedded_ad]
Where He Fits: Tyron Smith will once again line up at left tackle as the starter looking to build off his first season of playing in the Pro Bowl. In 2013, he was one of the team leaders when it came to the offseason program, and I expect nothing short of that for 2014. He has the perfect attitude and temperament, along with that rare skill and ability for the position. He is a cornerstone type of a player that this front office will look to build a team around in the years to come.
Nick Eatman: When I think back to training camp last July and August in Oxnard, there's no way I would've thought Smith would be the one making the Pro Bowl and DeMarcus Ware would get released. Smith simply couldn't handle Ware and it really wasn't even close. Obviously the two players went in opposite directions last season, especially down the stretch. Smith had a Denver game to forget – getting an untimely false start penalty that turned a likely touchdown drive into a field goal, and it was his foot that tripped up Tony Romo on the game's final interception. But in the second half of the season, Smith finally became the player the Cowboys hoped he'd be all along. Is he fully there yet? I wouldn't say that, but he's starting to show his dominant side both as a pass-blocker and run blocker.