Why Cowboys’ problem sorting out starter at left guard is ‘great’ for Dallas

The team has considered all options, including Terence Steele, following Connor McGovern’s departure in free agency.

FRISCO — Terence Steele does not look like a guard.

His stature at 6-6 and long, 35⅛-inch arms naturally suit a tackle. While recovering from the left ACL, MCL and MPFL tears he suffered last December, he has developed a stricter diet, resulting in less of a phone booth build.

No more pizza. No more bread.


He cut his weight from the low 320s to 312 pounds.


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“I found out a lot of the foods that I eat cause inflammation,” Steele said. “I’m eating super clean, so none of the foods I eat give me inflammation. I even cut out drinking on the weekend. All of that.”

The Cowboys are sorting through who their primary left guard will be in 2023. A noticeably leaner Steele is an out-of-the-box option they have considered, but no such move has yet been made. Until he is told otherwise, Steele is focused on rehabbing toward a return to right tackle while others compete at left guard.


A tone-setter in the run game, Steele is considered ahead of schedule in his recovery from reconstructive knee surgery.

“Strength is there,” he said. “My quad muscle is there. Pass sets feel good. Run sets feel good. … The doc said he hasn’t seen someone my size recover as fast as I have been recovering.”


Despite those strides, Steele has not been cleared to resume full football activities and likely won’t be for several weeks. So the Cowboys are proceeding with what they consider their strongest available combination.

That is Tyler Smith at left tackle, a Matt Farniok-led rotation at left guard, Tyler Biadasz at center, Zack Martin at right guard and Tyron Smith at right tackle.

Barring injuries elsewhere, Steele’s eventual return will cause a logjam at tackle. Logically, the team could make room for Steele by flipping Tyron Smith to left tackle and sliding Tyler Smith to left guard. Be it a desire to keep Tyler at left tackle or a reason related to Steele’s recovery, the main thinking for mulling a Steele move to left guard is not known.

Regardless, the Cowboys consider Steele the right tackle of their future. He is entering a contract year.

“We have a great problem,” Farniok said. “In all reality, we want to put out our best five, but we have a best, like, seven. That’s one good thing about here is that if something does happen, we have people that are going to be able to respond, be able to fill in that hole and play at the same caliber as everyone else. There’s not going to be a [drop-off].”

It is too early to say what line combination the Cowboys will start Sept. 10 at the New York Giants.

Last year, following August hamstring tendon surgery, Tyron Smith spent months rehabbing to make his season debut at left tackle. But soon before Smith’s return, Steele heard pops in his knee and walked off the field Dec. 11 against the Houston Texans. Smith stepped in for Steele the next week, playing right tackle for the first time since his rookie year.

Things can change quickly.


If nothing else, the Cowboys have the talent to respond.

Coach Mike McCarthy praised the position group’s versatility when asked Thursday how he would characterize the state of left guard. The incumbent starter, Connor McGovern, signed with the Buffalo Bills in March.

“We all want to line up and play [the same] five guys for 20 games,” McCarthy said. “Having continuity to your offensive line directly reflects your win total. You look at the history of that. But I think you do have to recognize that [with] 17 games it’s a bit of a stretch. So position flex is critical. You guys know all of the combinations. You’ll see us working on all those angles.”

Farniok has stepped in before.


Last year, McGovern suffered a high-ankle sprain on the first drive of the Cowboys’ season opener. Farniok played the game’s final 62 snaps and started at left guard rep the next two weeks.

Farniok’s positional flexibility allows him to step in at all three interior line positions.

“It feels good,” Farniok said of the first-team practice reps at left guard. “It’s just like anything. The more reps you get there, it becomes a little more second nature. … It’s just a position battle. We believe in putting the best five out, and my goal is to prove that I’m one of the best five.”

Chuma Edoga and rookie fifth-round pick Asim Richards are also in the mix.


Edoga rotated between left and right tackle in his first three NFL seasons with the New York Jets before a start at left guard for the Atlanta Falcons in his only 2022 appearance. Third-year Cowboys tackle Josh Ball bulked up some this offseason and is seeing more action at right guard behind Martin.

Tyler Smith has concentrated on left guard and said he hasn’t been informed whether he’ll eventually be moved to left guard.

“We’ve got a lot of good people,” Smith said. “A lot of good players. … Right now, we’re taking it day by day. We’ll see how it goes because last year, it changed week by week, on the fly. We’ll see how it shakes out.”

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