Deciding On A Swing Tackle

FRISCO, Texas – The major moves are done, for the most part.

Sure, talent acquisition is 365 days a year, as the Cowboys’ front office likes to say. But with the 2022 NFL Draft in the rearview mirror, the roster that’s about to work through OTAs is the one that will open the season in September, with perhaps one or two exceptions.

That’s an interesting thought, because there are several roles within this team that don’t look settled – at least not yet.

Today, we’ll take a look at the backup tackle depth.

What’s The Issue: At the moment, the swing tackle job behind left tackle Tyron Smith and right tackle Terence Steele seems wide open. Steele was the choice to fill in for Smith for six games last season, but now he’s become the projected right tackle starter since La’el Collins signed with the Bengals in March. Eight-year veteran Ty Nsekhe, who competed for the swing tackle spot last year, has not been re-signed. The Cowboys hope it’s not a position that gets extensive snaps, but Smith’s injury history shows that’s a possibility. The eight-time Pro Bowler was terrific in 11 starts last year but hasn’t played a full season since 2015.

Who Can Fix It: The Cowboys have drafted three offensive tackles in the past two years: 2022 first-round pick Tyler Smith and fourth-rounder Matt Waletzko, plus Josh Ball in the fourth round last year. The Cowboys say Smith will begin his career as a “left side player,” taking reps at guard and tackle, but he could emerge as the left guard starter in Year One. Ball, who did not play his rookie season because of an ankle injury, will begin working at right tackle. The Cowboys think Waletzko has the skills to play either side, but he could need some developmental time coming from North Dakota. Isaac Alarcon and Aviante Collins spent time on the practice squad last year and will compete again for a roster spot.

Outside Considerations: It doesn’t sound like that’s much of a consideration, actually. After the draft, when asked about drafting Waletzko, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said, “He sure took the spot of a veteran swing (tackle) guy out here in free agency. We won’t be seeing one of those.” The club seems to feel confident enough about the young tackle talent that they don’t want to stop progress.

Best Guess: Guessing between three players who haven’t yet played an NFL preseason or regular-season game? Don’t hold me to it, but Ball might be the most logical choice if Smith begins his career at left guard. Even though he didn’t play last year, Ball has had a year in the Cowboys’ system. He’s had a productive offseason so far and the club is excited about his potential.

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