Dallas Cowboys: Assessing the offensive line and its depth

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys are said to have one of the very best offensive lines in football. With two former All-Pros and at least one on-the-cusp Pro Bowler (La’el Collins should have been one in 2019), they have the ability to impart their will upon opponents.

And with budding young linemen like Connor Williams, Tyler Biadasz, and Connor McGovern rounding out the top-6, they also appear to have one of the deepest lines in the league. Hence why we heard rumors of some teams reaching out to Stephen Jones regarding a trade for one of them.

But that’s on paper, and things don’t always show out on the field the way they appear on paper. So today we dive into Saturday’s performance and compare it to how this offensive line performed in Cowboys camp this summer.

The Dallas Cowboys aren’t as stacked on the offensive line as some might have you believe…

First we start with the good news: Tyron Smith looks like he’s the healthiest he’s been in years and he’s playing like it. It seems finally having that pesky neck surgery has revitalized the 30-year-old left tackle and the Dallas Cowboys couldn’t be happier.

Playing on possibly the most team-friendly deal on the team, Smith gives Dallas an enormous advantage over at Dak Prescott’s blindside. If he can keep up his elite play and stay healthy, he could conceivably anchor the O-line for another 5-years. Smith stymied the Texans pass-rush on Saturday. In 16 snaps he allowed zero pressures. Fans should be extremely excited by his play.

The other side isn’t quite so great. La’el Collins showed up to camp in ridiculously good shape. Looking leaner and meaner than ever before, Collins looked to regain his form after missing all of 2020. And for the most part he has.

Collins has moved well and played with power throughout training camp. But on Saturday he took a huge step back, coming out of the gates seemingly on skates. In 19 snaps with the starting O-line, Collins gave up 2 pressures earning a 14.7 pass blocking grade from PFF (that ain’t good, folks). Now, some of that is on Garrett Gilbert for having zero pocket presence and holding the ball too long, but most of La’el’s criticism is well deserved. That’s not what you want to see from someone you expect to be a Pro Bowler in 2021.

Zack Martin was, again, fairly incredible – as he’s been all camp long. And Connor Williams, who played a whopping 41 snaps, was improved, bouncing between his natural guard position and center. Even though he’s unpolished at center, he didn’t give up any pressures all day.

The two players getting the most snaps were a mixed bag. Terrance Steele didn’t look great out there but he didn’t give up a single pressure in 53 snaps which is pretty darn commendable (he played both LT and RT). Brandon Knight, on the other hand, was appalling. He gave up four pressures in 45 snaps (primarily at RG). This continued a trend from the preseason making Knight a likely roster cut later this week.

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The sixth man of the O-line, Connor McGovern, had arguably the most disappointing performance of all. Despite being named in trade rumors, McGovern didn’t look like a very sought-after player. He struggled throughout, giving up two pressures, playing primarily at LG. His roster spot is safe and after a fairly strong camp, he’s expected to bounce back, but the poor showing was noteworthy nonetheless.

Looking at the big picture, the Dallas Cowboys don’t have quite the depth we’d hoped they have this season. Their depth at offensive tackle is concerning. Even veteran swing tackle Ty Nsekhe has been questionable this preseason. And with rookie OT Josh Ball on ice nearly all summer long, Terrance Steele is the next man behind Ty (queue spine shivers).

Connor Williams didn’t look great behind Biadasz at center and is still extremely raw at the position, but he’s making progress. Like tackle, an injury here would be tough. The main takeaway is this – the Dallas Cowboys look pretty dominant at the top of the depth chart but things get gnarly if injuries befall the unit again.

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Next. Cowboys preseason: One thing is now abundantly clear. dark

For perspective, the Dallas Cowboys in far better position than almost all other NFL teams this year. This is sad to report but certainly no cause for panic.

  • Published on 08/23/2021 at 12:59 PM
  • Last updated at 08/23/2021 at 13:07 PM