Former USC OT Tyron Smith is considered a game-time decision for the Dallas Cowboys as they approach their match with the New York Jets at the Meadowlands Sunday evening.
Smith was a rare pick for the Cowboys, who had never taken a tackle in the first round of the NFL draft. You can imagine how critical they thought the position was to forge new ground like that.
While the team only allowed 31 sacks (22nd in the league) in 2010, they allowed a ton of hits on the quarterback which didn't result in a sack, but did result in Tony Romo's injury.
The Cowboys decided they needed to do something to keep Romo upright and drafting Smith was a huge cornerstone for that plan.
How locked on Smith were they? Fox Sports writer Matt Mosely wrote this post draft: "The owner said late Thursday that he fielded three offers for the No. 9 pick, but none of them was strong enough to risk losing Smith."
Jerry Jones was so determined to get Smith he passed up the chance to reap some depth picks when Blaine Gabbert fell.
That's how serious they are about keeping Romo intact. Make no mistake, it's Romo, not Kitna, they need in order to make a run at the playoffs and beyond.
While Kitna performed more than admirably, he doesn't have much left in the tank and lacks Romo's upside. Also, the team needs to know if Romo is the guy or if they need to move in another direction. You can't do that when he's on the bench, much less injured again.
While Romo has his flaws, ultimately he's their best chance to go anywhere in what will be a tough division race—as always.
If Smith cannot go Sunday night, he will be replaced at right tackle by Jeremy Parnell, a decent but inexperienced player out of Ole Miss. While he is a competent player, he's a bit light and might find himself moved around a bit too easily by the Jets and, with his inexperience, he could get fooled by the Jets' multiple looks.
The last thing the Cowboys want is to give someone another clean shot on Tony Romo. Their best bet for that is to get Smith back in the lineup quickly.
With tough match-ups with Detroit, New England and Philadelphia in the first six weeks of the season, the sooner the better.