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Since Jerry Jones made him the ninth overall pick in 2011, Tyron Smith has been one of the NFL’s elite left tackles. However, that comes with a caveat. After missing just a single game in his first five years in the league, Smith has missed three games in each of the last four seasons. Dallas Cowboys fans and star quarterback Dak Prescott need no reminder of what life is like without the seven-time Pro Bowler. After all, Prescott suffered through one of the most painful games of his career when his blindside protector could not suit up against the Atlanta Falcons.

And in a cruel twist of fate, Smith just exposed those painful memories for Prescott and Cowboys fans with yet another ailment that could once again keep him sidelined against the Falcons.

Tyron Smith has been a star…when healthy

Tyron Smith entered the NFL at just 20 years old. Yet, he wasted no time showing he belonged. The 6-foot-5, 320-pound offensive lineman started his career at right tackle before shifting to the left side. A sound pass-protector with an impressive combination of strength and athleticism, Smith quickly became one of the best players at his position.

In fact, he experienced such a rapid rise that the Cowboys signed the breakout star to an eight-year, $109 million contract extension in July 2014. In retrospect, Smith probably made a financial mistake by locking himself into such a lengthy commitment. Still, he did well to score such a massive deal just a few years into his career.

Though he has been named to the NFC Pro Bowl team seven times, Smith has struggled to stay healthy in recent years. He has played only 13 games in each of the last four seasons. As a result, the Cowboys have been forced to adapt along the offensive line.

Smith’s injury issues first popped up in 2016. However, Dak Prescott and Cowboys fans will never forget what happened in 2017 when the star left tackle could not suit up against the Falcons.

Smith just exposed painful memories for Dak Prescott and Cowboys fans

On Nov. 12, 2017, Dallas traveled to Atlanta to take on the Falcons. However, Dak Prescott did not have the benefit of having Tyron Smith protecting him. Instead, the Cowboys turned to Chaz Green to protect their young quarterback. Let’s just say that plan did not turn out well.

Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn set a franchise record with six sacks that afternoon. Prior to that game, the 2011 first-round pick had totaled only 18 sacks. Prescott got taken down eight times and lost two fumbles in the disastrous 27-7 defeat.

Fast forward to 2020 and Smith just exposed those painful memories for Prescott and Cowboys fans. The veteran left tackle missed practice on Thursday and Friday due to a neck injury, which does not bode well for his chances of playing against Atlanta on Sunday. Head coach Mike McCarthy provided an update on Smith at his press conference.

“We’re really frankly just going through the process, gathering information,” he said. “As far as the plan, you’re always working different scenarios. We’ll continue to do that today and tomorrow. We’ll see how Tyron is tomorrow.”

Of course, the year may be different, but there’s no escaping the memories of Prescott scrambling for his life the last time Smith missed a game against the Falcons. And given the Cowboys’ depth at offensive tackle (or lack thereof), Dallas fans should be terrified about Sunday’s home opener.

Dallas has a nightmare scenario at tackle

The Cowboys annually boast one of the top offensive lines. Yet, that elite unit has already been ravaged by injuries this season. Starting right tackle La’el Collins suffered a hip injury that landed him on injured reserve. Backup Cameron Erving sprained his MCL in the Cowboys’ Week 1 loss to the LA Rams.

Throw in Tyron Smith and the Cowboys will likely enter Sunday’s matchup without their top three tackles. Dallas already had to start undrafted rookie Terence Steele in Week 1. If Smith cannot play, that will force McCarthy to get creative in order to fill a huge hole at left tackle.

According to Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News, the team hosted veteran Jared Veldheer on a visit. Though he boasts plenty of starting experience, the 33-year-old suited up in just two games last season. It will be interesting to see if the Cowboys sign the 6-foot-8, 321-pounder as a temporary fill-in.

Either way, McCarthy and his staff have to figure out a way to keep Dak Prescott protected on Sunday if Tyron Smith cannot play.

If not, it will be another long, painful night against the Falcons.

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