Left side is all right for Tyron Smith
Talented young tackle not fazed by position move, and Cowboys aren't either
IRVING, Texas -- The biggest decision the Dallas Cowboys made this offseason did not involve the $50 million investment in free-agent cornerback Brandon Carr or the first-round trade-up for another cornerback, Morris Claiborne, and it has been met mostly with little to no consternation.
The biggest decision the Cowboys made came before free agency and the draft when they decided to move Tyron Smith from right tackle to left tackle.
The reaction has not resulted in knots in stomachs or loss of sleep over moving Smith to a position he has never played in a division filled with pass-rushing threats on Tony Romo's blind side.
Instead it's been greeted with a collective "well, no kidding."
Smith was so good as a rookie in 2011 that the Cowboys -- and just about every scout or line coach you could talk to across the league -- believe they have found an offensive line solution for at least the next decade.
Oh, and there's this: Smith remains the youngest player on the roster.
Born on Dec. 12, 1990, Smith is a little more than 10 months younger than Claiborne.
"I know a lot of people expect a lot of things from the left tackle," Smith said. "It's just me not wanting to disappoint my teammates."
Smith carries himself like a 10-year veteran, not a 16-game veteran and certainly not the normal 21-year-old. His answers to questions rarely extend for longer than a sentence or two. They are as quick as his feet.
Very little fazes him.
"If you remember, Tyron last year was a 20-year-old (rookie) on Day 1," coach Jason Garrett said. "The first play of the first practice, he was our starting right tackle, and he handled that well. We went to play the Jets in the first game against a really challenging defense, good players, really good scheme, difficult to play against, and he really didn't blink. That's been his history."
He works very hard. He's physically tough. He's mentally tough. I think he has some deep-down confidence, which is a really important thing. And rightfully so.” -- Cowboys coach Jason Garrett
on left tackle Tyron Smith
When Garrett and new offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Callahan told Smith of the move in February, he simply said OK and started working on a left-handed stance. At Southern California, he played right tackle. He took a few training camp snaps at left tackle last summer, but once Doug Free was able to practice Smith moved to right tackle.
"He's a serious-minded kid," Garrett said. "He works very hard. He's physically tough. He's mentally tough. I think he has some deep-down confidence, which is a really important thing. And rightfully so. He's a guy who never thinks it's right. He's the guy who's always working a little after practice and always trying to refine it, and we think that's a good thing, too. He's got a long way to go over there, but he's going about it the right way."
Smith learned it early in life, working for his parents' cleaning service when he was 4 or 5. He learned the value of a hard day's work.
He has spent the offseason studying the top tackles in the game, while also studying the guys he will go against, like Jason Pierre-Paul of the New York Giants, Philadelphia's Trent Cole and Washington's Brian Orakpo.
In practice, he gets a daily test from DeMarcus Ware. On Wednesday, Ware took Smith off to the side while the No. 2 offense and defense were working to show him how to fend off a pass rusher's long reach.
Each repetition helps the new movements with his hand and feet become more of an instinct.
"It's a little faster," Smith said, "but it's just all technique and getting the angles."
Romo liked Smith's level of commitment and maturity. Fellow offensive linemen rave about his athleticism. Defensive players talk about the strength in Smith's punch and the power of his hands. Callahan, who is considered one of the best line coaches in football, has said this offseason he has not had a player like Smith before.
Smith's reaction to Callahan's praise?
"Just not to let him down, pretty much," he said.
Will he ever get a big head?
"Nah," he said. "I'm always going to stay like this."
Well, there was one moment of bravado from Smith and it came at his introductory press conference at Valley Ranch last year.
He made a bold proclamation that he felt he had, "the potential to be a Pro Bowler and be a Hall of Famer."
Sometimes a comment like that will be held over a player's head as some sort of "gotcha" moment.
So far with Smith, it sounds just about right.