The Cowboys used the 24th overall pick on Tulsa offensive tackle Tyler Smith. It was assumed, based on his draft status, that the team would make him the walk-in starter at left guard, a vacancy created with Connor Williams‘ departure in free agency.
But Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday that Connor McGovern, a third-round selection in 2019, has the edge in the competition at the position.
“Those decisions aren’t going to be made (today),” McCarthy said, via video from the team. “If we started today, Connor would play there. Left guard. We’ll see. Tyler’s coming along strong. He does a lot of good things. He’s like the rest of our rookies. They need to play. They just need to play and keep getting better. Connor definitely has value at other positions, which I value a lot. I think he’s a damn good fullback. I think if he lined up and played fullback, 10-12 plays a game, I think he’d be recognized for it. We’re looking at all those things, because it’s a long season, and we want to be able to get in and out of as many personnel groups as we can.”
Coaches don’t always mean what they say, and the season doesn’t start today. Whether McCarthy’s comment was meant to motivate Smith, or as a pat on the back for McGovern, or for some other reason, it still will come as a surprise if Smith isn’t in the starting lineup against the Buccaneers on Sept. 11.
Both players played 37 snaps in the first preseason game and 29 in the second. Smith is out of practice this week with an ankle injury, but the Cowboys haven’t ruled him out of Friday’s preseason finale.
McGovern has gotten work at center this week, and the Cowboys still will flex him out to fullback in the Mac subpackage.
“We’ll get there when we get there,” McCarthy said of the starter at left guard. “. . .I don’t think you take a rookie and just line him up as the starter either. That’s why you have competition. That’s why those two guys are competing for the position. That’s only going to make us better at the left guard position.”
McGovern has 14 career starts, including six at left guard last season. If the Cowboys were going to start him at left guard, they wouldn’t have drafted Smith in the first round. Or shouldn’t have.