The Dallas Cowboys had the No. 1 ranked offense in 2021 in terms of total yardage and while volume stats are hardly the end-all be-all, they certainly do mean something. The ability to move the football hardly happens in a vacuum for the skill position guys, as the offensive line has to create running lanes and keep rushers off their quarterback long enough to give the receivers time to shake free from corners. It’s an intricate dance orchestrating individual effort into a group action and for years the Dallas Cowboys have relied on top-tier line play to help keep the rhythm.
Over the last few years there’s been a bit of arrhythmia though as pieces around what could be considered the drums and bass guitar have fallen out of key. While Zack Martin’s tunes have consistently been on pitch, even the great Tyron Smith has had a couple of, for him, down seasons as the rest of the band has shuffled and scuffled. Not in 2021, though. Smith was back to his old self as one of the best left tackles in the game. Pro Football Focus’ grades recognized this, as Smith was recently named to their Top 50 list of players heading into the 2022 season.
Smith checked in at No. 41.
Smith was back to his best this past season despite missing some time due to injury. He posted a 90.0-plus overall PFF grade for the first time since 2015, allowing just 17 pressures across more than 500 pass-blocking snaps. Smith finished with PFF grades of at least 87.0 as both a run blocker and a pass protector.
Smith finished third among tackles in pass blocking, grading at 87.0, behind only Andrew Whitworth and Charles Leno, Jr. His 90.0 run grade only sat behind San Francisco’s Trent Williams’ 97.0.
Interestingly enough, former Cowboys RT La’el Collins finished right behind Smith in run blocking with an 89.5 grade.
PFF’s top 40 players will be revealed as the week continues, but seeing Smith rejoin the recognized elite bodes well for the Dallas offensive line, despite all of the games he’s missed over the last six years. Smith has a new stablemate in first-round pick Tyler Smith. The Tulsa tackle will eventually be the USC star’s replacement, but for now will get experience inside at left guard.
The Cowboys are hoping to have suitable replacements for the inevitable missed time Tyron, with Josh Ball and Matt Waletzko battling for swing tackle honors and with the possibility that Tyler Smith gets kicked outside.
Regardless of what that solution looks like, the Cowboys still have one of the NFL’s best when he’s available.