With free agency and the NFL Draft in the rearview mirror, the Dallas Cowboys now look forward to OTAs and training camp leading up to the start of the 2018 season. With that in mind, I will be breaking down the roster by position. Today we will take a look at the offensive line.
The strength of the Dallas Cowboys is their offensive line. The success or failure of the offense will depend heavily on the play of the line. So let’s take a look at the men responsible for opening up holes for Ezekiel Elliott, and keeping Dak Prescott upright throughout the 2018 season.
Let’s start with the longest tenured and possibly the most important player along the line, Tyron Smith. Smith will be entering his eighth season as the starting left tackle for America’s Team. Smith has made five Pro Bowls and is a two time, first team All-Pro.
When Tyron is on the field, the entire offense performs much better. The problem is the last two seasons, Smith has missed six games. If Tyron Smith can stay healthy in 2018 the Cowboys should be fine on offense, but if not the Cowboys must hope that his replacement can perform better than they did in 2017.
The weakest link of the Cowboys offensive line in 2017 was their left guard. Jonathan Cooper wasn’t horrible as a starter but he definitely was not as good as the Cowboys needed him to be either. That’s why in the second round of the NFL Draft, the Cowboys selected Connor Williams. Williams was a left tackle at the University of Texas, but Dallas will slide him inside to guard to start the season. Williams should fit in nicely with the rest of Dallas’ line. He also brings the added bonus of position flexibility. If Tyron Smith was to miss time it is reasonable to assume that Dallas could move him out to tackle where he has a lot of experience playing.
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At the center position, Travis Frederick will be entering his 6th season. Frederick is considered one of the top centers in the NFL. He has a great combination of power and brains. His brute strength allows him to physically dominate the opposition, while his incredible smarts allow him to change and call out protections. He is one of the most important players on the Cowboys roster, not only because of his talent but also because the Cowboys do not have a capable backup.
At right guard is another player Dallas can’t afford to lose, Zack Martin. When you ask people around the NFL who is the best guard in football is the most common answer is Zack Martin. Martin is entering the final year of his rookie deal and he is looking for a new deal before the season begins. He skipped OTA’s last week to show his displeasure. I am confident Dallas will do right by Martin and give him a new deal before the season begins, but they should consider doing it sooner rather than later. You need to keep your best players happy and Martin is one of Dallas’ best and most important players.
Rounding out the starting five will be La’el Collins. Collins was moved from guard to tackle before last season and did an admirable job in that role. I believe a second year in the position will only make Collins even better.
I believe Dallas will keep three backup offensive linemen in 2018. Those three players will likely be Marcus Martin, Cameron Fleming, and Joe Looney. Of those three Fleming is probably the most important. He started at right tackle for the New England Patriots last season, including in the Super Bowl.
The biggest reason for the Dallas Cowboys collapse in 2017 wasn’t Ezekiel Elliott being suspended, it was when Tyron Smith and Zack Martin suffered injuries. The Cowboys have built their team around the offensive line. They will go as far as the offensive line takes them. Dallas did a nice job of improving the backup lineman in free agency, but to get where they want to go they will need that starting five to stay healthy and dominate.
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