Tyron Smith injury: How Dak Prescott, Cowboys are impacted by veteran tackle’s torn hamstring

Tyron Smith has not played a full season for the Cowboys since his All-Pro campaign in 2015. This series will continue until 2022.

Smith suffered a leg injury in Dallas practice on Wednesday. It was quickly reported by ESPN’s Todd Archer that Smith had not suffered a cruciate ligament tear, and that gave some hope to both Smith’s teammates and Cowboys fans.

“He gave me a nice, reassuring grunt like he usually does,” guard Connor McGovern after speaking to Smith in the dressing room told ESPN. “It’s the only thing that plays next to him long enough for me to make out his grunts. I think he’s alright.”

Unfortunately, McGovern’s optimism would prove short-lived. Smith’s season is now in jeopardy because of the injury he sustained. The Cowboys will have a hard time replacing him adequately and will have to rely on some very young, green candidates to start on the blind side – barring another roster change.

What happened to Smith and how could his injury affect the Cowboys? The Sporting News breaks it down.

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What injury does Tyron Smith have?

Smith suffered a hamstring injury during the Cowboys’ practice Wednesday. Corresponding NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the injury is “an avulsion fracture of the knee”. In other words, the portion of Smith’s hamstring that connects to his knee was torn from the bone.

Smith will require surgery to repair the injury and will be sidelined for the long term.

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How long will Tyron Smith be out?

Smith will be out for several months due to the injury, and Rapoport reports that Smith’s projected return date will likely be December “if he’s even back.”

report compared the injury to that of Jets offensive tackle Mekhi Becton, who has already been ruled out for the season. That doesn’t bode well for Smith’s return, considering the 31-year-old tackle has sustained several notable injuries to his back, knees and ankles during his career.

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How Tyron Smith’s injury is affecting Dak Prescott, Cowboys

Smith’s injury will likely have a negative impact on the Cowboys and Prescott in particular. The veteran quarterback didn’t get great pass protection with Smith out of the lineup, and that has proven costly at times.

Let’s take last season as an example. Smith missed six of 17 regular season games due to a nagging ankle injury, and in those six contests, Prescott took 14 of his 30 sacks for the season. This aligns with his career trend of being dropped from the lineup more often with Smith.

Dak Prescott Times lost per game
With Tyron Smith 1.9
Without Tyron Smith 2.6

It’s also worth noting that Prescott was twice sacked more than seven times in a game during his career. Both of those contests were held without Smith in the lineup.

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Well, it’s worth noting that the absence of Smith didn’t affect Prescott’s pass count and winning percentage much overall. He was still able to match or exceed his production in most major stat categories, minus sacks allowed.

Dak Prescott games recording Comp % Past farms TDs exist INT’s
With Smith 64 40-24 66.2 256.4 1.69 0.59
Without a blacksmith 21 13-8 67.7 270.1 1.67 0.57

However, it must be noted that Prescott was able to increase his numbers without Smith in a Week 18 game last season when the Eagles were resting their starters. Prescott had 295 yards and five passing touchdowns in the contest while his offensive line faced less of a test from Philadelphia’s second unit. When he entered that competition, he was averaging 1.5 passing touchdowns per game without Smith.

So, Prescott’s numbers might look OK without Smith, but the point cap just isn’t that high without him. Add that without Smith, Prescott is likely to be hit more often and the Cowboys’ offense could struggle to work as efficiently as it will in 2022.

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Cowboys depth chart: who will replace Tyron Smith?

It also doesn’t help the Cowboys that they’re without their top backup tackle from last year. Dallas was blessed with three starting-caliber tackles in Smith, La’el Collins and Terence Steele last season. That allowed them to mix and match on position as Collins was suspended for the start of the season and Smith was dealing with injuries.

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However, Collins joined the Bengals in the offseason, leaving the Cowboys with only Steele available to start the season. As such, they must rely on their depth to fill the position.

Here is a brief overview of the candidates who could replace Smith:


Why not replace one T. Smith with another? Like Tyron, Tyler was a first-round Cowboys pick. The team selected him from Tulsa with the 24th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, and he was expected to compete for a starting job at left guard before eventually going on offense. Now the 6-6, 332-pounder could be called up to replace fellow Smith sooner than expected.

Matt Waletzko

Here’s another freshman from a non-Power 5 conference who could replace Smith. Waletzko is currently listed as the team’s backup left tackle on Dallas’ official depth chart. The FCS product was very successful in North Dakota and was selected in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft. The concern with Waletzko is that despite his 6-8 frame, he only tips the scales at 320 pounds, so is a bit lean and lanky.

josh ball

Ball is another new draft pick from the Cowboys. They spent a fourth-round pick in 2021 with Marshall’s 6-7 tackle. Like Waletzko, he’s a bit small for his height at 308 pounds, but he’s also the most familiar with Dallas’ system, having already completed his rookie year. The Cowboys might consider throwing him in the lineup, but if they do, they’d likely play him in the right tackle, with the versatile Steele stepping to the left.

While these options have advantages, none will completely replace the two-time All-Pro Smith. As such, the Cowboys might consider signing a veteran like Eric Fisher, Bryan Bulaga or Sam Tevi to help out at the position.

However, Smith’s absence will hurt Dallas and the Cowboys could stumble out of the gate because of it.

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