Dallas Cowboys: Big reshuffling of the offensive line?

Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports /

Things don’t always go as planned. If the 2020 season taught the Dallas Cowboys anything, it’s that one contingency plan is not enough. Look no further than the Dallas Cowboys offensive line last year.

Significant injuries to four out of the Cowboys five starting spots relegated the offensive line to a shell of its former self. Even key depth players were injured in last year’s disastrous campaign. The Cowboys would be so lucky to fall on a Plan B or C. They were floundering around on Plan L.

This year there seems to be a renewed focus on position flex and versatility. Amongst other things, the Dallas Cowboys are planning for the worst on both sides of the ball. And some of the plans have the potential to surprise.

Connor Williams, the Dallas Cowboys starting left guard, could be in the mix for swing tackle in 2021.

The position that hurt the Dallas Cowboys the most last year was offensive tackle. Both sides. Tyron Smith was lost for 14 games and La’el Collins missed all 16. To make matters worse, Dallas’ veteran swing tackle Cameron Erving, was injured most of the season as well. Erving found himself on injured reserve through Week 6 and sadly by then the Dallas Cowboys season was certifiably over (see also Dak’s ankle).

All NFL teams understand the importance of having a reliable swing tackle on hand in case the unthinkable happens. The Dallas Cowboys especially so. That’s why they’re not just working on Plan B, but also subsequent contingency plans.

Veteran tackle, Ty Nsekhe, was brought in this offseason to be a reserve tackle on the roster. He’s long in the tooth but perfectly competent. He’s arguably the best swing tackle Dallas has employed for a few years. But now we’re hearing he may not even be the primary swing tackle in 2021.

When the question was posed to Cowboys media member and former scout Brian Broaddus he surprised folks with who he thinks will be the 2021 swing tackle. The top names he threw out ignored the seemingly obvious answer (Nsekhe) and went with a pair of other options first: Josh Ball and Connor Williams

Ball, the Cowboys controversial fourth round pick from Marshall, has all the tools to be starting left tackle in the NFL. The only question (besides character concerns) is whether or not he’s technically sound enough to play as a rookie.

Williams raised the most eyebrows because he’s a three year starter elsewhere on the Cowboys offensive line. He was the only lineman to play all 16 games in 2021 and is coming off his best season as a pro (PFF ranked him the 16th in the league).

In the past, the Cowboys have been resistant to moving him to his college position of tackle (even in reserve capacity) so it’s interesting here in Year 4 they’re now willing. More than anything, it probably speaks to their desire to outline contingency plans, more than a change of heart.

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It would be surprising if Williams was removed from the starting lineup since he is far and away the Cowboys best option at left guard. Last seen, the distance between Connor Williams and Connor McGovern wasn’t really close. And it would be tough to imagine Brandon Knight (who’s potentially moving inside permanently) or the rookie Matt Farniok will get any closer to Williams.

What this speaks to is potentially a few things:

  1. Stephen Jones is cheap and wants a cheaper swing tackle.
  2. The Cowboys may not be as high on Nsekhe as the rest of us.
  3. The Cowboys think Ball is more developed than the rest of us.
  4. The Cowboys are preparing for multiple contingency plans.

Frankly, all four could be true. And that’s a good thing. Exploring all possible scenarios is wise because once the season starts, anything can happen. Tyron Smith seems to be progressing well and La’el Collins seems to be slimmed down and is in proper game shape (he was physically a mess last offseason).

But as they say, hope for the best prepare for the worst. That’s likely what the Dallas Cowboys are doing right now. They aren’t shaking up the starting lineup or even signaling things are going poorly. They are building a roster and strategizing.

Who knows if Brian Broaddus will be ultimately right or not, but he’s usually pretty plugged in and chances are, he didn’t make this up out of thin air. We also don’t want to overreact and think this means a fundamental change to the starting unit.

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It’s about contingency plans and that’s probably it.

  • Published on 05/17/2021 at 16:01 PM
  • Last updated at 05/17/2021 at 14:53 PM