Tyler Smith learned ‘from every snap’ while battling Aaron Donald

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 09: Tyler Smith #73 of the Dallas Cowboys defends against the pass rush of Aaron Donald #99 of the Los Angeles Rams during the second quarter at SoFi Stadium on October 09, 2022 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 09: Tyler Smith #73 of the Dallas Cowboys defends against the pass rush of Aaron Donald #99 of the Los Angeles Rams during the second quarter at SoFi Stadium on October 09, 2022 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

There was a lot of doubt and trash talk (even from those within Cowboys Nation) when the Dallas Cowboys chose to pick Tyler Smith with their 24th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Was he too penalty prone? Why didn’t Dallas go with the next best available player? Was he really the best offensive line option? The questions and speculation even caused Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to flash his big board to reporters to prove a point.

However, from the moment Smith arrived at training camp, it was clear that the young man was ready to learn. He took advantage of getting advice from guys like Zack Martin and Tyron Smith. He put in work to make sure he would be more technically sound.

After a breath of fresh air from seeing the rookie and his mauler-like tendencies, the worry returned when veteran and future Hall of Famer Tyron Smith got hurt during the preseason, knocking him out of the roster until at least December. With the Joneses unwilling to look externally, the job went to a young, inexperienced player who would now have to go from left guard to left tackle in under two weeks.

To many people’s surprise, Smith was incredible in his first four weeks. He had his slip-up moments. But for a 21-year-old who had never played an NFL game to be as good as he was against veteran talent was sensational. A position group that was supposed to be beaten up and struggling turned into a surprisingly formidable group with the ability to keep Cooper Rush upright more than expected.

However, it wasn’t until Week 5 against the Rams that Tyler Smith had his first “Welcome to the NFL, kid” moment. In several situations, the Tulsa product was set to stop a three-time Defensive Player of the Year on his own, which made many puzzled as to how the Cowboys put him in that situation. This isn’t to say people are upset or disappointed with Smith. Veterans who go up against Aaron Donald can’t even stop him. However, it was clear who was the more dominant player.

Cowboys rookie Tyler Smith got advice from Jason Peters on the sideline and is learning from his experience against Aaron Donald

Unfortunately for Smith, the Rams sent Donald up against him alone many times and the 284-pound lineman got past him for two sacks and even drew a holding penalty against him.

So, how is Smith feeling after? Hopeful. He knows that facing the best and learning from the situation is part of the game. Here’s what he told Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News:

"“I had some snaps where things didn’t go my way, obviously. But you know, we battle test. That’s part of the game. That’s part of football. You win, you lose, but you learn from every snap.”"

Luckily for Smith, he had now-hurt Cowboys OL Jason Peters on the sideline to help him in real-time. The tackle who was brought in to give Dallas an OL boost may not be able to do so on the field right now, but he certainly is from the sideline. Veteran tackle Peters became coach Peters on Sunday:

"“I didn’t kick enough. J.P., I came to the sideline. He was like, ‘You know, you’ve got to stay square on this guy. This isn’t a guy you can give a short edge to.’ He pulls up the iPad, and sure enough, I’m opening it up after my first kick.’ If you open up [your pass set], you give someone a short edge. It’s just falling to the level of your coaching.“You’ve got to take your three kicks. You’ve got to get to your spot. That’s something that I have been coached on since before the season started. ‘Get to your spot. Get to your spot.’ A lot of times, where I ran into trouble, I didn’t get to my spot. … That’s one thing you can never do in this sport is abandon your fundamentals, regardless of who is in front of you.”"

If anything, this shows how good of a listener Smith is and his ability to learn from seeing the game. It’s that mentality that doesn’t have the Cowboys coaching staff worried about the rookie’s performance:

"“Let me make it clear about Tyler, and we all learned this right away,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “I mean, this young man is an alpha. I mean, he hasn’t blinked with any opportunity that he has been exposed to, so he’s very consistent, very diligent in his preparation — mentally, classroom, practice environment and all those things. But what I like about him is he stays aggressive.“He’s a competitor, and he’s young. He’s green in some areas, and it’s just exciting to watch him grow weekly. What a great experience to go against someone like Aaron Donald, and he’ll be better for it. …We all recognize the talent. He’s just a young man that needs to continue to play, and he will be just fine.”"

To Smith’s credit, when the rookie wasn’t lined up against the Pro Bowler, he looked like his typical self: strong. Plus, he wasn’t alone. The LA defender recorded four pressures when going up against Connor McGovern, Tyler Biadasz, and Zack Martin. Donald is just that good.

Now, he has the experience of playing one of the greatest defenders in the game under his belt moving forward.