It was a mixed bag during practice this week against the Los Angeles Chargers for Dallas Cowboys first-round pick Tyler Smith.
He was strong in the running game early, working at left guard next to left tackle Tyron Smith working with the first-team offense.
The Fort Worth native, who played in high school at North Crowley, helped wall off defenders, opening a crease for running back Ezekiel Elliott to rip off a big gain.
But later on he didn’t switch on inside stunting Khalil Mack who pressured quarterback Dak Prescott into an interception in a two-minute drill.
The former is what the Cowboys expected from Smith. His size and power should pay immediate dividends in the ground game. He can move people.
The latter is about communication and eye discipline.
And that will come with increased time next to Tyron Smith with the starters.
Great offensive line play is about the chemistry and continuity of the unit up front working together.
Heading into their second preseason game on Saturday against the Chargers, Smith remains second on the depth chart at left guard behind Connor McGovern.
It’s only a matter of time before the Cowboys end this training camp pretense and elevate Smith to the starting role.
“Definitely, there is a point in camp where this comes up,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “But I think its like anything. Tyler has been getting the work in. You are looking for continuity. You do have some flexibility that will affect some personnel groups without getting into any of the specifics. That is part of that.”
McCarthy said the Cowboys aren’t there yet.
He said Smith’s issues are technical.
“You talk about being physical. You talk about having a play style. He brings that to the table,” McCarthy said. “His mistakes more technical, the finish component for young lineman when your feet are beat. How you react. That is part of it. His second and third reaction components and technique will be a focus for him moving forward.”
Moving forward, look for Smith to get more snaps with the first team.
The season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sept. 11 is less than month away. The Cowboys will begin game planning for the Buccaneers following the preseason final against the Seattle Seahawks on Aug. 26.
If you are paying attention to the team’s roster moves and personnel groupings, the writing is on the wall for Smith’s official elevation.
The Cowboys released fullback Ryan Nall last Tuesday when they cut the roster from 90 to 85. With no fullbacks on the roster, McGovern has begun reprising his role as the team’s fullback on short-yardage situations as he did in 2021.
There is little chance that if the Cowboys planned to start McGovern at left guard he would be working at fullback.
No team is going to move a starting lineman to fullback and bring a backup in to replace him on the line.
More importantly, no one drafts an offensive lineman in the first round without the specific plan to make him a Day 1 starter.
They didn’t want to give the job to Smith right off the bat. They wanted him to work and earn the position.
The time for pretense is over.
Smith needs that continuity with the first team and the unit needs to gel and develop chemistry for the season.