Mac Engel

Tyron Smith again looks like the Cowboys’ MVP. Especially when he’s on the bench

With a degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Stanford University, Cameron Fleming is likely the smartest guy in the Dallas Cowboys locker room but any first-grader could see his education didn’t help him against the Packers.

The left tackle replaced Tyron Smith in the starting lineup and the difference between the starter and the backup was embarrassing on Sunday.

Smith missed the game after he sustained an ankle sprain in the Cowboys’ loss at New Orleans the week before. Once again, Tyron Smith too often looks like this team’s MVP once he is on the bench.

The Cowboys gained 563 yards of offense, but this was not Fleming’s finest performance.

“Uhhhm — not good enough. We didn’t win,” Fleming said after the game. “I’m just trying to help my team win and we obviously didn’t do that today.”

Nope.

In his career, the Cowboys are 5-5 without Smith in the starting lineup. They were 3-0 when he was out last year, and that was with Fleming as his replacement.

Fleming is better than what he showed on Sunday, which is somewhere between Bad, Not Good and He Didn’t Get Anyone Killed.

Quarterback Dak Prescott and the offense fell behind 31-3 before it finally started to gain chunks of yards against a Packers defense that was willing to give up plays as long as it burned clock.

Dak was also sacked three times. He was also hit at least eight other times, according to the official statistics. And he held the ball too long a few times, too.

When the coaches review and grade the game against Green Bay, they are going to see that Fleming had a hand in allowing a disproportionate number of these dud stats.

Fleming didn’t think he was picked on by the Packers, even though he was.

“Not really. I think it was about the team,” Fleming said. “They attacked us as a team and we didn’t respond as well as we should have. I have to do better. We all have to do better.”

Now, Fleming’s performance is not in the same universe as the “Chaz Green Game,” but Fleming needs help from a tight end or two. And he has to play better.

For the uneducated, the Chaz Green Game is perhaps the worst performance by both an offensive left tackle, and play caller, in the history of the Dallas Cowboys. The game could be its own documentary.

Chaz Green was a third-round pick by the Cowboys in the 2015 NFL Draft who simply never developed. He was a nice kid who didn’t have it.

The Cowboys stayed with Green as a backup, because he was a third-round pick.

In 2017, Smith suffered a knee injury and missed three games, one of which was at Atlanta on Nov. 12.

Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn abused Green and finished the game with six sacks and forced two fumbles in a blowout win over the Cowboys.

Both offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and head coach Jason Garrett were late to give Green help in blocking; Green kept lining up in 1-on-1 matchups, and simply could not do the job.

Fleming came to the Cowboys in March 2018 after playing the first four years of his career with the New England Patriots.

He is an upgrade over Chaz Green, but this is going to be a problem if first-year offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and his boss don’t accommodate him.

Smith does not figure to miss an extended period of time, and the Cowboys could put in a little chihuahua at left tackle on Sunday and beat the New York Jets on Sunday in New Jersey.

Maybe Smith is available for the game against Philadelphia on Oct. 20.

Once he left the lineup there was going to be a noticeable difference. There always is when Tyron Smith does not play.

The Cowboys have to recognize that Cam Fleming is a decent backup who needs help.

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Mac Engel is an award-winning columnist who has extensive experience covering Fort Worth-Dallas area sports for 20 years. He has covered high schools, colleges, all four major sports teams as well as Olympic games and the world of entertainment, too. He combines dry wit with first-person reporting to complement a head of hair that is almost unfair.
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