While the first couple of waves of free agency have passed, it's never too late to upgrade the roster, something the Cowboys will try to do at the end of this month with the NFL Draft.
Even with that, the majority of the 2018 roster is already in place. In the coming weeks, the staff of DallasCowboys.com will preview those players, analyzing where they've been and where they're going.
Today, we continue the series with offensive tackle Tyron Smith.
Views of #77 Tyron Smith from the 2017-18 Regular Season.
What's Been Good:
When he's healthy and on his game, it's easy to make the argument that Tyron Smith is the Cowboys' best player. For that matter, it's easy to make the argument that he's the best tackle in the NFL – especially now that Cleveland's Joe Thomas has retired. The Cowboys drafted Smith all the way back in 2011, and he has rewarded that pick with a string of dominance to the tune of five Pro Bowl selections and four All-Pro nods, three of which were first-team selections. Smith's uncanny blend of size and athleticism has made him one of the most formidable members of the Cowboys' offense for the better part of a decade.
What's Been Bad:
The problem is that we've seen how bad the Cowboys can look without Smith, and we've seen it more often than we would prefer because of injuries. The problems first arose in 2016, when back issues forced him out of two games in the middle of the season. It wasn't a big deal, as Chaz Green performed admirably in his place and he finished the season without further issues. But 2017 was a different story. Smith began to deal with problems as early on as training camp, and the problem was persistent enough that it forced him out of practice for long stretches of the season. When Smith eventually suffered a groin strain against Kansas City, that was enough. He missed the next two games, and the offense subsequently fell apart. The offensive line couldn't protect Dak Prescott in lopsided losses to Atlanta and Philadelphia, and the Cowboys were never able to find their groove the rest of the way through the season.
Ironically, Smith's finest performance could have been the one that eventually got him injured. The Cowboys hosted Kansas City in Week 9, and the Chiefs entered the game as one of the hottest teams in the first half of the season. Although the Kansas City defense boasted talents like Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, Chris Jones and Bennie Logan, the Cowboys completely stonewalled them. The Chiefs only managed one sack, which didn't deter a Cowboys' scoring drive, and they surrendered 131 rushing yards. It was one of the Cowboys' finest performances of the season.
That's a question that could shape the Cowboys' hopes at contention for the foreseeable future. Again, if Tyron Smith is healthy, their offensive line has a chance to be as good or better than any in the league. It can pave the way for Ezekiel Elliott, protect Dak Prescott and help the Cowboys' piece together one of the best offenses in the league. But will be healthy? For his part, Smith says he has worked himself into fantastic shape, and the Cowboys are optimistic he should be good to go in 2018. But they felt the same way in 2017, and it didn't work out. The front office signed Cameron Fleming to provide depth this offseason. But if Smith's injury issues are chronic and not easily overcome, it's enough to make you wonder if the Cowboys need to start worrying about the future of their left tackle position. It's not time to hit the panic button just yet, as Smith is just 27 years old. But make no mistake about it, his health is quietly one of the most important storylines for this team in 2018.
- One of the most valuable players on the roster when it comes to the overall success of the club.
- Dealt with varying injuries during the season that compromised his ability to preform at the level we're all accustomed to seeing from him. He worked hard with the training staff to manage those issues, but it was clear that at times he wasn't the same player.
- When on, there is no question that he's one of the best in the league. A dominant run blocker that plays with unmatched power and fluid grace. He can make those blocks that other offensive linemen can only dream about. As a pass blocker he is effortless in the way he sets and finishes.
- He thrives when he deals with outstanding edge rushers. The tougher the opponent, the better he plays.
- He has already been working hard in preparation for the upcoming season. Just recently he said that it was the best he had felt in a long time. As important as Smith is that should be great news for all involved.