ARLINGTON, Texas – Officially, the Cowboys have not announced a starter to replace left tackle Tyron Smith, who suffered a torn hamstring requiring surgery this week and could be sidelined until deep into the regular season.
But it's becoming obvious that first-round draft pick Tyler Smith will factor heavily into the conversation.
"The good news is we addressed it (left tackle depth) in the draft," Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones said after Friday's preseason finale victory over Seattle at AT&T Stadium.
"From the get-go we said he (Tyler Smith) was our future left tackle. The future may just be sooner than later, not unlike for Dak (Prescott in 2016)."
That year, Prescott was a fourth-round draft pick who improbably jumped from third-string to starter in a single training camp after injuries to Tony Romo and Kellen Moore. Prescott led the Cowboys to 13 wins and the No. 1 overall seed, made the Pro Bowl, won Offensive Rookie of the Year and never looked back.
"He had to step up when Tony got hurt," Jones said. "We didn't go get a veteran quarterback. We plugged him in. And I think the (offensive line) group as a whole has got a lot of confidence in our five guys we've got."
It's also possible that with final roster cuts looming around the league, the Cowboys could look for veteran help at tackle. But as Jones said, "offensive line is a tough spot in this league right now" in terms of finding immediate help.
Tyler Smith got some practice time at left tackle in the spring OTAs but has worked exclusively at left guard in a training camp competition with Connor McGovern. But the lack of tackle reps the past few weeks doesn't concern the Cowboys.
"(Tackle) is where played in college," Jones said. "It's not foreign to him to step out there and be left tackle. And that's why we kept him on the left side because there are a lot of things that go hand in hand. That's why it was important to really work him over there rather than move him over to right tackle. The left side works good, and we'll see.
"We haven't totally made the final decision exactly what we're going to do, but (by) the beginning of the week we'll have made that call."
Tyler Smith did not play Friday due to a minor ankle issue that kept him out of practice during the week. First-year tackle Josh Ball and rookie Matt Waletzko split snaps at left tackle against Seattle. It was Waletzko's NFL game debut after returning this week from a shoulder injury that has sidelined him for almost all of training camp.
Head coach Mike McCarthy said Tyler Smith had a good rehab session Friday and could progress to some field work over the weekend. That's an encouraging sign as the Sept. 11 regular-season opener against Tampa Bay draws closer.
McCarthy, like Jones, did not want to speculate on the Cowboys' upcoming plans at left tackle. But he did say that 60% of Tyler Smith's practice reps in the offseason program were at tackle, not guard.
And as Jones said, Tyler Smith played left tackle for all three seasons at Tulsa before entering the NFL Draft and getting selected 24th overall by Dallas.
Sounds like it's possible he'll be back at left tackle at some point his rookie season, if not Week 1.