It goes without saying that the coming 2022 NFL season is exceedingly important for the Dallas Cowboys, and not simply head coach Mike McCarthy. It’s also pivotal for several cornerstone players, including All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith, who has had difficulty staying healthy on an annual basis. Unfortunately for Smith, with OTAs now well underway, he’s already nursing an issue the Cowboys are keeping an eye on — albeit seemingly minor (at least at the moment).
The eight-time Pro Bowler missed the second day of practice at OTAs due to tightness in his lower back, McCarthy told media Wednesday, and while he was present the entire day leading up to practice, the team decided to “play it smart” and not push the issue by forcing him onto the field for drills in late May. The 31-year-old hasn’t played a complete regular season since 2015, and recently missed all but two games in 2020 due to neck surgery and a high ankle sprain along with a stint on the reserve/COVID-19 list cost him six games in 2021.
As is often the case, Smith’s health will take center stage entering training camp and the regular season.
The Cowboys are hoping to begin rookie offensive lineman Tyler Smith’s career at left guard, a position of dire need, but the first-round pick and Fort Worth native will now certainly get looks at left tackle as well (the position he most often played for Tulsa) with the elder Smith absent this week, along with rookie fifth-round draft pick Matt Waletzko and Josh Ball, the latter entering Year 2 with the club.
Smith was joined on the sideline by James Washington, the newly signed wide receiver seen wearing a walking boot at OTAs, and the Cowboys are being cautious with his injury as well, though not detailing what the exact nature of it is.
“I know he won’t work next week,” said McCarthy. “I can’t give you the specifics of that, too. It’s not of a serious nature. I’m not worried long-term.”
Washington was brought in during free agency after the team traded four-time Pro Bowl receiver Amari Cooper to the Cleveland Browns and lost their bet that Cedrick Wilson Jr. would re-sign in Dallas — Wilson instead taking his talents to South Beach to join the Miami Dolphins. Although the re-signing of Michael Gallup became that much more paramount following those two losses, it’s likely he will miss the start of the season as he continues to recover from a torn ACL suffered in 2021; and despite CeeDee Lamb prepping for his new role as WR1 heading into September, the Cowboys’ usually deep WR corps was instantly made exceedingly thin.
This sets Washington up for what might be a big role on a one-year prove-it deal, but he must first get healthy and then ramp up to compete with a promising talent like rookie wide receiver Jalen Tolbert. But Tolbert himself is nursing what’s being described as a minor injury, and isn’t expected to take the field this week, either.
It’s still two months until training camp arrives for the Cowboys, so there’s no concern that any of the aforementioned (Gallup notwithstanding) will miss any actual games, but the team is already working through some early injury bug bites and, given Smith’s issues with durability and his importance to the team’s success, it’s fair to pay very close attention to his status as OTAs, minicamp and the preseason roll along.