Cowboys Nation collectively winced Friday after it was reported that All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith will miss Saturday’s preseason game.
According to Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News, Smith is dealing with back stiffness and did not travel with the team to Hawaii, where they’ll face the Los Angeles Rams in their second exhibition affair.
Smith remained home in Dallas to mend the injury, which is “not considered serious.”
Cameron Fleming is likely to fill in for Smith, who joins a long list of notable Cowboys already ruled out for the game, including linebacker Sean Lee (MCL), defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence (shoulder), and guard Zack Martin (back). Wide receiver Amari Cooper, who has a nagging heel, isn’t expected to suit up.
That it’s a back issue for Smith is a bit worrisome considering what seemed to be a chronic malady first appeared amid an injury-marred 2017 campaign in which he sat out three games. Regardless, the former first-round pick maintained his typically-elite level of play, earning his seventh of eight Pro Bowl selections.
Interestingly, Smith — who made 13 of 16 starts last season, his sixth straight as a Pro Bowler and third as a first-team All-Pro — remarked in May his intention to return better than ever for 2019.
“Every year you always have little nicks here and there, but it feels good coming into this year with no injuries,” he said, via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. “I’m coming back faster and stronger.”
Smith, 28, allowed zero sacks and only 15 quarterback pressures across 849 offensive snaps last year, his eighth in the NFL.
Cowboys fans have come to know Smith as an elite if unreliable player. He’s among the league’s best when he’s on the field; problem is, he hasn’t lasted for a full 16-game regular season docket since 2015.
Smith battled knee, back and neck injuries last season and, chances are, will be forced out of action again in the upcoming months. In a best-case (and probable) scenario, this back flare-up is a temporary speedbump, meaning there’s no danger surrounding his availability for Week 1 vs. New York.
Spotlight on Fleming
It isn’t ideal, but Smith’s absence will give the Cowboys a closer look at Fleming, a 2014 fourth-round choice of the New England Patriots who signed with Dallas in 2018, then re-upped with the club this past March to serve as the primary swing tackle.
Fleming was solid but unspectacular in Smith’s stead last year, but it should be interesting to watch if (when) Los Angeles defensive boss Wade Phillips attacks Dallas’ decimated line, which will feature Xavier Su’a-Filo starting at right guard for Martin. Cowboys OL coach Marc Colombo will need to get creative — yes, even for a preseason contest.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter @KelbermanNFL