Turn back the clock five years, the Dallas Cowboys are coming off their third consecutive 8-8 season and after losing their third consecutive winner-take-all Week 17 game. Approaching the 2014 draft, the hype is surrounding Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.
Jerry Jones wishes for him to be the heir to Tony Romo. Dallas’ selection eventually comes around and with the 16th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Cowboys select Zack Martin. For the first time, Jerry Jones doesn’t get what he wants, but what he needs.
This selection marks the beginning of a new era in Dallas. The focus has turned to building the offensive line to protect Romo from injury as he got older and to take the pressure off of him by running the ball.
The strategy worked as the Cowboys rode their new Great Wall of Dallas to the Divisional round of the playoffs twice in the past 4 years. Tony Romo and Dak Prescott have had all the time in the world to drop back in the pocket and look for an open receiver.
This offensive line led the way as DeMarco Murray led the league in rushing in 2014 and Ezekiel Elliott in 2016. In both 2014 and 2016, Dallas finished second in the league in rushing yards per game with 147.1 and 149.8 respectively.
Now back here in 2018, the vaunted Great Wall of Dallas is beginning to crumble. Injuries and age are starting to take their toll. Just about each part of the offensive line has a problem it’s dealing with. The Cowboys spend more of their money on the Offensive Line than any other team in the NFL.
Injuries have plagued Tyron Smith for the past couple of seasons.
Tyron Smith has anchored the Cowboys’ offensive line for eight years now and is considered to be the best-left tackle in the game. He was the first member of the new Cowboys offensive line brought in when he was made the 9th overall pick in 2011 NFL Draft. Since then, Smith has named First Team All-Pro 3 times and a Pro-Bowler 5 times. For his efforts, he was given an 8 year, $97.6 Million contract extension.
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The 27-year-old Left Tackle has been bitten by the injury bug the past couple seasons. In 2016, he missed a game because of his back and a game because of his knee. In 2017, Smith missed two games because of his back, one of which led to Adrian Clayborn putting on a clinic against Chaz Green. With injuries beginning to take a toll, there comes a point in a football player’s career where they must consider the long-term effects of the game.
The absence of Travis Frederick is evident.
Travis Frederick was drafted by Dallas with the 31st pick in the 2013 NFL Draft out of Wisconsin. Frederick’s value to the offensive line cannot be understated.
He calls the blocking schemes and pass protections. As he’s missed time this year, it has really shown the impact he has in the middle as defensive tackles like Kawann Short and Damon Harrison have wreaked havoc on the Cowboys’ run game. The Cowboys made Frederick the highest paid Center in terms of total value when they signed him to a six-year, $56.4 million contract.
Late in Training Camp, the devastating news broke that Travis Frederick had been diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome. Guillain-Barre Syndrome is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks the nerves.
The recovery for this takes time, so there is no timetable for Frederick’s return. Luckily it was caught early. Football is definitely secondary when it comes to this and we hope Travis makes a full recovery.
There’s been a lack of stability at Left Guard and Right Tackle.
For several seasons, the Cowboys have had the core of Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin lead their offensive line, with Doug Free and Ronald Leary rounding it out. However, after Leary moved on to Denver and Free retired, those two positions can be considered a weakness.
Even with three of the five positions dealing with issues, there is still plenty of talent with the other two. Zack Martin still young and reliable. He has started every game since being drafted and has been a Pro Bowler in each season.
Also, he just signed a 6 year, $84 million deal in August. La’el Collins has been a solid piece at right tackle since Doug Free retired. He is only 25 and will likely get a long-term deal of his own when his contract expires after 2019. A popular saying in the NFL is “games are won and lost in the trenches.”
The Philadelphia Eagles definitely know this to be true as they had a top five offensive and defensive line guide them to the Super Bowl. Maybe it is too soon, but it may be the time to raise the question: is it time to rebuild the Offensive Line?
- Published on 09/22/2018 at 17:41 PM
- Last updated at 09/22/2018 at 17:41 PM