Cowboys first-round pick Tyler Smith stood in the locker room with a big smile on Friday. He was back in his element after the first practice of rookie mini-camp.
“It was a great feeling. There's nothing like it,” Smith said. “Feels like forever since I got to play football, but it was a great starting point today.”
A starting point is a good way to put it. Rookie mini-camp is about fundamentals, and there isn’t a lot that resembles real football going on, outside of a few unpadded 11-on-11 reps.
For a prospect considered as raw as Smith is, working with the coaches at rookie mini-camp is a critical stepping stone in the process of sharpening Smith’s sky-high skill set.
“I immediately noticed things in college that I just did without thinking about, (but) I come here now and it's kind of coached to me and told to me in a different way. I'm able to apply it to the way I play. And they're doing a fantastic job of that.”
Smith is the team’s left tackle of the future, but his current responsibility will be at left guard. Friday’s practice was the first work Smith had done at guard since his senior year at North Crowley High School.
“It felt good, I won't even lie. You surprise yourself sometimes, like it was a great feeling.”
Cowboys offensive line coach Joe Philbin told reporters after practice that bringing Smith along will be a “process” over the summer, but the traits are clearly visible.
“He looked quick today. His movement skill was good,” Philbin said. “I told him when we drafted him: there’s 99 steps that you’ve got to take to be ready to play in an NFL game, and we can’t skip any of them.”
Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore followed the same narrative as Philbin and Smith in painting today as simply the beginning of a much larger process.
“Good starting point for him. We’ll just start him in there (at left guard). Obviously we’ll let the thing play itself out through the entire offseason. At times we may bump him out at tackle.”
As for how soon Smith could see some work at tackle, Moore added that the team will “take it day by day.”
For now, Smith’s focus is on improving the little details at guard.
“I feel like I need to play a little lower at guard. It’s a more low to the ground position. I'm a tall dude. I'm used to playing from a two point stance. So just harping the small things, like leverage out of the stance. That's stuff Coach Philbin and Coach Blasko stress, and that's stuff I really want to improve upon and make sure I solidify in my game.”