Signs point to swing tackle Emmett Cleary starting at left tackle for the Dallas Cowboys when they visit the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
Starter Tyron Smith is not expected to play because of a right knee injury that knocked him out of Monday’s game against Detroit. Smith has also been managing a back injury much of the season, but should be ready to go for the playoffs next month.
Cleary replaced Smith on Monday, and played 15 offensive snaps. Coach Jason Garrett felt Cleary held his own, and Cleary said he worked with the first-team offensive line as the left tackle during Wednesday’s walkthrough.
Cleary has only 12 games of NFL experience under his belt, all coming with the Cowboys this season. He has never started a professional game.
Smith, on the other hand, was voted to his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl earlier this month and is regarded as one of the top left tackles in the game. He has started 92 career games.
Cleary understands he isn’t on Smith’s level, but is ready for the opportunity.
“I’m not going to get all pumped up about it because I get prepared to play every week,” Cleary said. “But going in knowing you’re going to be out there the first series and kind of get a chance to get in the flow of the game is exciting.
“My role as a substitute is to come in and use the exact same techniques and exact same coaching and exact same communication so the other four guys don’t feel anything different. My job is to make it as seamless as possible.”