October 4, 2011

Cowboys rookie lineman already making a name for himself

Tyron Smith is drawing comparisons to Larry Allen.

IRVING -- In answering six questions about rookie right tackle Tyron Smith, Dallas Cowboys offensive line coach Hudson Houck invoked Larry Allen's name three times. There are worse comparisons.

Allen will go into the Cowboys' Ring of Honor later this season, and he is eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013.

Smith has played four NFL games, but already Houck is seeing greatness in the rookie.

"I thought he was going to be a good player. We all thought that," Houck said Tuesday. "Obviously, you looked at him and knew he had good talent. But a lot of things you don't know about a guy: Does he get wide-eyed when he comes in here? 'Oh, this guy is rushing me. He's a great player. I've read about him in the newspaper.'

"This is not too big for him. Even though we heard a lot of good things about his work ethic, we didn't know just how good it was until we got him in here. Because of that, he'll come along quickly."

Another thing Smith has in common with Allen is he is a man of few words. He needed only four minutes to answer 22 questions at his locker Tuesday.

It was 22 more questions than he answered after the Cowboys' 34-30 loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

"I didn't want to say nothing to nobody. I just didn't want to talk," Smith said. "...I'm upset every time we lose."

Smith had a nearly perfect day against the Lions, according to Pro Football Focus. He graded out the best among the Cowboys' offensive players, according to the website, which said, "...Smith should be proud of his day when he watches the film."

But Smith was upset by the sack he allowed to Lions defensive end Willie Young, who got Smith off balance and then got to Tony Romo with 35 seconds remaining after Smith fell onto his back.

"It was just bad technique," Smith said.

It was the first full sack Smith has allowed this season. He has been called for two false starts and given up 1.5 sacks, according to STATS, Inc.

"He wants to be perfect in what he does," Houck said. "He never shies away from work. He's a really good practice player. He's a heck of a guy who listens. We're really pleased with him.

"And he's playing well. He gave up a sack last week that he's very upset about. But you learn. Larry Allen had some sacks early in his career as well."

Smith, 20, was selected ninth overall by the Cowboys. He is the first offensive lineman Dallas has selected in the first round since Jerry Jones bought the team in 1989.

Smith might be an early candidate for offensive rookie of the year if not for Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, the No. 1 overall pick, whose 1,386 passing yards rank third in the NFL.

"He's done a great job," center Phil Costa said of Smith. "He came in and picked the offense up really quick. He got a lot of work in training camp, a lot of work in preseason. He's just done a phenomenal job there."

Allen started his career at left tackle before eventually switching to guard, where he became one of the top players at that position in NFL history. Like Allen, Smith could change positions, too.

Smith played right tackle in college at USC, but Houck said Smith has the ability to play left tackle against the league's pass rushers. Smith and Doug Free could one day switch sides because Free has the ability to play either side as well.

"He can play any position. He could play any position," Houck said of Smith. "In the future, we might do that. In the future. Right now we're pretty set on what we're doing."

Charean Williams


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