The Dallas Cowboys‘ 17-7 loss against the Denver Broncos was a rough showing for the team as a whole. It was a chance for the rookies and backup players to show they deserve a spot on the roster.
One person many were excited to see was the Cowboys’ first-round pick Tyler Smith. Since he was drafted this spring, the reviews have been mixed. Some see the Tulsa product as a mauler-type player with a major upside. Others see him as a young, inexperienced rookie with major penalty issues.
We got to see a bit of both on Saturday. He had positive and negative moments, but he shined overall. Smith did have two holding penalties, but depending on who you ask, one of them was debatable at best. The good news is that his penalties seem to come from his hand placement, which is something that can certainly be worked on and taught.
Aside from that, his physicality, strength, and bully attitude were on full display in Denver.
CBS Sports seems to agree, too. The site recently graded the performances of every first-round pick from the 2022 NFL Draft in their first preseason game. Despite the penalties, Smith came out with quite the impressive score: an A-.
Cowboys rookie Tyler Smith receives an A- grade from CBS Sports for his performance in preseason Week 1
Here’s what writer Chris Trapasso said about the rookie:
"After extensively watching Tulsa film to zero in on Smith during the pre-draft process, the Cowboys first-round pick’s debut as a professional went almost exactly as expected. He was seemingly a bit lost on occasion, even bumping into the center or tackle. But he battled like hell and demonstrated brute, veteran-like strength in straight-up, man-to-man scenarios, in pass pro and for the run game. There was seemingly one blown assignment across a gap from him that led to a pressure. Other than that, I love how Smith played against the Broncos."
In other words, that upside people are talking about is certainly there. It feels like the unreachable things (size, strength, tenacity) all seem to be there for Smith. Now, it’s about working with his coaching staff to refine his technique and stay away from penalties. The 21-year-old is ready to put in that work and knows he has more to do.
In his first NFL appearance, Smith had dominant blocks, moved people around, and showed his capability outside of training camp with his own teammates. Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy thinks he’s on the right path, too.
"I thought Tyler did a lot of really good things. His mistakes were more technical, the finish component of it. I think mentally he was sound. I thought there were a lot of good snaps to learn from in his first time out there live."
Now, the hope is that he continues to improve. If he can avoid the penalties and show more refinery against the Chargers this weekend, Cowboys fans will feel really good about this rookie’s future in the NFL.