The Dallas Cowboys boast the best offensive line in the NFL, but trouble could be looming and University of Texas left tackle Connor Williams could be the solution.
We’re not even halfway through the NFL preseason, yet already the Dallas Cowboys are facing a rather troubling development. An offensive line that’s been lauded as the best unit in the league for a few years now already faces serious questions at the left tackle position.
Yes, left tackle.
Four-time Pro Bowl lineman Tyron Smith has been reportedly ‘shut down’ by the Cowboys due to a back issue that has more than raised a few eyebrows. It’s not clear as of now if Smith, the ninth-overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft, is expected to be ready for the season opener on September 10, but let’s assume that he’s not and a worst case scenario unfolds from there.
Ever heard of Connor Williams?
If you’re a fan of the Texas Longhorns, you probably have. If not, it might be a good idea to check out the junior left tackle that’s already projected to be a first-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft next April.
I know, I know. You’re thinking that I’m jumping to conclusions that have yet to be reached. To an extent, this is true – but only to an extent.
Smith played his college football at University of Southern California and has emerged as arguably the best and most athletic left tackle at the professional level. His selection following the disastrous 2010 regular season has never been a disappointment and until last years’ draft haul of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, the former Trojans star was easily the most important draft pick of the Jason Garrett era.
Beyond the fact that Williams plays football just a few hours down Interstate 35 from Dallas-Ft. Worth, there’s the fact that Smith is dealing with about the worst part of the human body to have issues with while expecting to play professional football – or any football, for that matter.
Back issues are what led both former quarterback-turned-broadcaster Tony Romo and Hall of Fame pass rusher Charles Haley into retirement. There’s plenty of other examples of football players never regaining original form due to issues associated with the spinal cord.
At 26 years old, it seems awfully soon to rush Smith off to pasture, and it certainly is right now. Having played six seasons in the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys are expecting far more out of their franchise left tackle who’s under contract through 2023.
Then again, the 2017 season may very well set off the alarm bells regarding the need for a player like Williams, who certainly looks the part of a franchise left tackle.
According to NFL.com media analyst Daniel Jeremiah, Williams is a strong prospect who should be able to polish off a few weak areas this coming season. While slightly taller than Smith, Williams doesn’t quite have the reach that the Cowboys star blocker has, which could cause him to fall outside of the top 10 selections in the first round of next spring’s annual player selection meeting. Dallas would seem to have a pretty solid chance to be picking outside those first 10 selections – or so Cowboys Nation hopes.
Even if Smith does make it through this season without lingering issues, it might be prudent for the Cowboys to have a contingency plan for the most important position on an offensive line that’s otherwise built for success through at least the remainder of this decade. Maybe that backup plan is already in place in the form of Chaz Green or even La’el Collins, who just signed a contract extension with the Cowboys as the planned right tackle for the future.
But if there’s another young, blue-chip offensive tackle in the immediate future of the Dallas Cowboys, keep an eye on Connor Williams and the Longhorns this season. Should he forgo his final season in Austin, America’s Team might have some thinking to do.