IRVING, Texas – DeMarcus Ware thinks Tyron Smith is the best offensive tackle in the league.
The Cowboys' all-time sacks leader had his way with Smith at training camp last season, but Ware knew how talented a player he was facing. One of the reasons Ware believes he can return to his elite level is because of the success he had early last year against a left tackle he respects and admires.
"I know when I was going against Tyron just what I was going against," Ware said. "Run blocking, pass blocking, I feel like the best tackle in the league. I knew if I could beat him, I could beat anybody else. I said, you know, once I get my body back, I get everything back up under me, I'll be able to be the player I need to be and don't have to worry about injuries. That's where I am right now."
No player on the Cowboys has come a longer way since that last training camp than Smith. This year, no Cowboys defender has been able to get by the left tackle, who at just 23 years old earned an eight-year extension to give his full contract a total value worth north of $100 million.
Smith admits he had his struggles early on against Ware last year, but those struggles helped him become the player he is today.
"The first year I came in was the lockout year, and I didn't really know much," Smith said. "But thanks to the best that helped me come along – Tony Romo, Doug Free, Kyle Kosier and DeMarcus Ware – DeMarcus Ware beat my butt every day, but it got me better."
Smith's success doesn't surprise Ware, who's seen tremendous growth in the tackle. Ware said he could tell when Smith was a rookie how athletic he was, but when he watches film on Smith now, he's taken aback at how great a player he's become.
"He's out there mauling guys," Ware said. "I mean, just being a dominant guy out there on the corner, pass blocking and run blocking."
Ware still remembers a feeling of it all clicking for the left tackle when he went up to Smith during a game and told him he's going to have to shut out the pass rusher week in and week out.
"I said, 'You know what, if you're that guy that can shut each one of those guys down and make them quit the first quarter, I promise you they'll stop coming,'" Ware said. "From that point on, he's been that guy since the first quarter trying to kill people. I see the guys quit and he comes to the sideline, runs to the sideline, he says, 'You know what, D-Ware, you're right.' I said, 'I told you.' I said, 'I know.' Now I see him do it consistently. I'm very proud of him." [embedded_ad]
Ware won't play Thursday against the Cowboys, who could end up getting working in the first-team offensive linemen. That means Ware gets to avoid Tyron Smith. Despite his past practice success against the left tackle, Ware wouldn't mind missing that matchup.
"I don't even want to see Tyron. Tyron, he's big time now," Ware said while laughing. "He's the big boy now, so I'll let him handle it and be that cornerstone of the offensive line down there."
That's exactly what the Cowboys expect Smith to be for the next decade.
The success Dallas had drafting Smith played a part in their dedication to the other offensive line positions. The Cowboys would go on to spend first round picks on Travis Frederick last year and Zack Martin this year to make the line a position of strength.
Smith described the group of offensive linemen this year as a lot closer than they were in the past. A lot of that has to do with the addition of Martin. Despite Smith being months younger than both Frederick and Martin, with three years of football under his belt, Smith will be the one counted on to guide the young group the way veterans did with him in the past.
"I'm doing the best I can to play my role on this team," Smith said. "If they need me to be a leader, I'll be a leader and try to help out the young guys the way I was helped."