*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 2015 plans. Today's Roster Rundown entry features left tackle Tyron Smith.*
Name: Tyron Smith
Position: Offensive Tackle
Experience: 4 seasons
College: Southern Cal
Key stat:Smith has already played four seasons in the NFL, been named All-Pro two times and signed a 10-year contract extension – and he just turned 24 this past December.
Contract Status:Signed through 2023.
2014 Impact: There are few players on this Cowboys roster where there are no questions about how they are going to perform during the season. For me, Tyron Smith falls in that category. Call it what you want, but I choose to call it confidence. I know what I am going to get from Smith down after down. I know he is going to complete his assignment no matter who he is facing. What I have grown to appreciate about Smith's game is that he has continued to improve on his overall technique from season to season. I remember back to his rookie season in the league, where he struggled when rushers took him hard down to the inside. It was an area of his game where I was surprised that more defenders didn't try and beat him, because rushers were having success. Smith's biggest issue was he just didn't have the technique or the power at the time to take that step down and cut that man off. If you focus on Smith today, I no longer see those technique and power struggles that once gave him issues in his game. He is far more powerful and balanced in his techniques, and when the defender tries to work him -- whether it was inside or out -- he is far more equipped to handle the rush. Another area where I thought he has greatly improved is on the mental side. Since he was a Day 1 starter for this team, he really didn't have much of an opportunity to sit and learn. It has been from his playing experiences that he has developed. Smith now has a much better feel for what rushers are attempting to do to him. He is no longer going into these matchups just relying on that talent to get him through, but he has developed a mental game plan to go along with the physical one. As Tyron Smith continues to develop, it is becoming more and more apparent that he's the type of elite offensive tackle that many believed he would one day become.
Where He Fits: He will once again be the cornerstone of an offensive line that placed three of its five starters in the 2015 Pro Bowl. There were plenty of situations during the season where you could tell that offensive coordinator Scott Linehan had Tyron Smith in mind when he called the play, whether it was a run to his side or slipping DeMarco Murray out on a screen with the idea of letting him trigger plays at the point of attack. With Smith's ability the opportunities are endless in what a coordinator can do scheme-wise -- he is just that outstanding of a player and will be for an extending period of time.
David Helman:It's pretty tricky to evaluate an offensive lineman during the course of a game, because you typically don't notice them if they're doing their job correctly. It can also be tricky to evaluate an All-Pro like Tyron Smith, because the expectation is that he's going to dominate everyone he plays. For the most part, he does dominate – but it tends to stand out when No. 77 is flagged for holding or allows a sack. That's a testament to Smith's ability, because his incredible reliability makes his seldom mistakes stand out. None of this is to say that Smith was disappointing in 2014 – he was named to the Pro Bowl and he was an All-Pro for the second year in a row. But what's scary for opponents and great for Smith is that he can still improve. I expect that he'll be one of the league's top one or two tackles for most of the next decade.