After missing the previous three games due to an ankle injury, Cowboys’ six-time pro bowl left tackle Tyron Smith returned to the starting lineup. The Dallas Cowboys would go on to dismantle the Philadelphia Eagles on national television in a highly anticipated Week 7 matchup.
In 2018, Smith graded out as one of the better offensive tackles in the NFL. He yielded zero sacks, 23 pressures/hurries, and only two quarterback hits that season (15 games). Through five starts in 2019, Smith has surrendered one sack, 15 pressures/hurries, and a quarterback hit. The star tackle hasn’t necessarily picked up where he left off.
However, on Sunday evening, Smith not only returned to the field, but he’d return to form as well. According to Pro Football Network’s Data Lab, Smith graded out at 73% (elite performance) in run blocking and 63% (above average) in pass blocking. Below, we will look at a few of the highlights and lowlights from Tyron Smith’s Sunday Night Football performance.
In this next clip, the Dallas Cowboys are running an inside zone play. Smith and the left guard are responsible for the backside A & B gap player. The offensive tackle’s hands are outside the body frame of the defender, and this results in losing leverage. It may also lead to holding calls.
Offensive lineman must understand the leverage of the play (where the ball is going). It is Smith’s job to get vertical movement while maintaining leverage between the down lineman and the ball carrier. While his hands are poor, Smith does a great job of delivering a strike and gaining ground post-contact.
Here, Tyron Smith gives up a sack to #96. If you look at this play, you can see one key difference from his previous pass sets. Smith opens himself up to the sideline and misses with his hands. Offensive linemen often do this. A significant coaching point to this is when you turn to run the defender upfield, the defender must be beyond the offensive lineman’s hip (point of no return).
Once offensive linemen open their hips, they must run the defender beyond the quarterback or press the defender wider (widening the pocket). However, if the tackle opens too soon, they run the risk of the defensive lineman stunting back inside. If he opens his hip too late, he runs the risk of getting beat up the field.
Offensive linemen must understand that once you turn towards the sideline (open hips and shoulders), you have now made the route to the quarterback shorter.
Overall, Smith had a pretty good outing on Sunday night for the Dallas Cowboys, but he did have a couple of critical errors. These criticals mistakes included two penalties and a sack. Smith excelled in the run game because he had a solid strike, gained ground with his steps, got a good push on defensive linemen, and finished blocks well. An area where he struggled was in his hand placement in both the passing and running game. Smith also struggled more in the passing game due to his lack of independent hands in his pass protection.
All of these techniques and nuances are correctable. The most significant takeaway is that Tyron Smith can still be a top tackle in the league, and he looks to be healthy again. He will only improve as the season goes on, as having three weeks off would negatively impact anyone’s performance.
Make sure you’re getting the latest installment of The Trenches as a new offensive line film study drops every Friday with Matt Cannata, a contributor for Pro Football Network’s Film Room. You can follow him on Twitter @Coach_Cannata.