Coming into the 2011 National Football League season, the Dallas Cowboys probably will look to start strong. Coming off of a 6-10 2010 campaign where quarterback Tony Romo was lost for the year after the sixth game, this Cowboys team will be out to prove that they are serious playoff contenders.
Oh—and that they can protect the quarterback.
This year the ‘Boys will start their season off against two-time AFC Championship attendees, the New York Jets. Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will play cops and robbers with his brother Rex, as the two defensive gurus try and outsmart one another.
So, let’s take a look at last year’s first game, when the Cowboys played the Washington Redskins. Now, I believe everybody remembers the infamous play by Alex Barron, when he hooked Redskins defensive end Brian Orakpo around the neck and tried to screw his head off.
Barron was flagged, the Cowboys touchdown was called back and the Redskins walked away with a victory. Barron was playing due to an injury to tackle Marc Colombo, but of course there is no guarantee that Colombo would have done a better job on the athletic Orakpo.
Since Smith is younger, stronger and more athletic, I am prone to believe that Smith would have performed better against the Redskins' sack master.
Let’s plug Tyron Smith into Barron’s spot. He’s drafted by the ‘Boys and is made starting right tackle. His first contest is against the Jets and Ryan’s exotic blitz schemes and he is pitted against Jets defensive end Mike DeVito.
Last season, DeVito had a pretty solid contest against the Steelers in the AFC Championship game, where he recorded seven solo tackles and zero sacks. DeVito isn’t a sack machine, but if he remains the starter he’s athletic enough to give Smith problems.
Not to mention the countless number of blitzes Ryan will send Romo and Smith’s way to see how much the rook can handle.
If that’s the scenario for Dallas, then how will Garrett handle protection schemes for Romo? Also, will the team have enough faith in Smith to let him go at it alone?
While we have no clue how Smith will perform if drafted, and if he will start, I think it’s a pretty safe bet that he’ll have more confidence and athleticism than the slowness of Barron.
Next season, the Cowboys will have key games against the Redskins, the Patriots, the Eagles and the Giants. Smith may have his first contest against Orakpo in Week 3 and, while the Patriots won’t scare anyone defensively, it will be important for Smith to establish himself against such a strong opponent.
The same goes for the Eagles, as their defense isn’t nearly as potent as it was under former defensive coordinator Jim Johnson—may he rest in peace—but still strong enough to cause problems.
If the Cowboys and Smith want to establish the right side of the offensive line, then Smith will have to have a strong showing against the Cowboys' strongest NFC East opponents.
If Colombo ends up staying and turns into a backup for Smith and Tyron fails to work out, then Dallas may be in a world of hurt come playoff time—literally.
The Cowboys will have a much better chance of winning against the aforementioned teams if Smith is plugged into the right side over Colombo. Last season, Marc was rated the team’s worst starting offensive lineman and the only way Smith will perform worse is if he just forgets everything he learned in college.
Speculating is pretty fun in the offseason and this is just a part of the process.