Cowboys Nation has always been divided on fourth year left guard Connor Williams. From the time he took his first starting snaps as a 21-year-old rookie, to here, more than halfway through in his fourth season, Dallas Cowboys fans have been extremely critical of the former Longhorn.
Sometimes that criticism is fair. Other times, not so fair. What’s become clear is that not many people are on the fence anymore regarding Williams. You either think he’s an asset or you think he’s a liability. There is no middle ground.
It’s very clear the Dallas Cowboys need to give the starting left guard spot back to Connor Williams
After getting flagged a whopping three times in his last start, Connor earned the not-so-honorable distinction of the leading the NFL in penalties. Like…the whole NFL.
For those who already disliked Williams, you can imagine how this level of distinction went over.
To many, replacing Connor Williams was a no-brainer. The fans who never liked his style of play (which focused on finesse and athleticism instead of brute strength) had a laundry list of reasons to hate his play even more now (get it? Laundry?).
But the grass isn’t always greener on the other side and the past few weeks Williams’ biggest critics got to see what it looks like without Connor Williams in the starting lineup. And it wasn’t pretty, my friends. The Dallas Cowboys are struggling on offense and man who replaced Williams, Connor McGovern, grades as one of the worst pass protectors in the NFL
Keeping Dak Prescott clean is objective No. 1 for any offensive lineman. Opening holes for Zeke is nice, but we know this offense isn’t going anywhere if Dak goes down. A holding call is a drive killer but a free shot on Dak is season killer. I’ll take a holding call here or there if the alternative is Connor McGovern’s league-low Pass Block Win Rate.
Even with the penalties, Connor Williams stacks up as a pretty good NFL guard. Many of us fail to see that and lack perspective of the full NFL landscape. This season represents a slight step back for Williams in PBWR and Run Block Win Rate but he’s still ahead of the curve when you look at the rest of the NFL.
As a long-time supporter of Williams, I can say he’s gotten the raw end of the stick by Cowboys fans throughout most of his career. Most offensive linemen don’t hit their prime until late into their 20s. Williams was drafted at just 20 years old, and right now, he’s only 24. Keep in mind, Zack Martin was 24-years-old his rookie season.
Williams was drafted at just 20 years old and right now, he’s only 24. Keep in mind, Zack Martin was 24-years-old his rookie season.
Dallas fans are also spoiled. From Larry Allen to Zack Martin, they’ve been blessed with some of the most extraordinary talents the world has ever seen. So the bar is extra high ‘round these parts. If you look around, the rest of the NFL ain’t so lucky. Most teams would kill for someone like Williams and we’re about to see that first-hand this winter when Connor hits free agency.
It’s safe to say even with all those penalties, Connor Williams is going to be priced right out of the Dallas Cowboys’ market.
We discussed before the season began, Connor Williams is set to cash in big this offseason and with so much money devoted to the O-line (and offense in general) already, Dallas probably can’t justify breaking the bank for another high priced lineman.
McGovern is last in the NFL in pass block win rate. A holding call is a drive killer but a free shot on Dak is season killer.
Many will rejoice this fact, and after seeing all of these penalties, it’s hard to blame them. But most film graders (All-22 watchers) agree, despite Williams’ struggles, he’s still a well-above-average guard and at a time when the league is short of good O-line play, he’s going to cost a lot on the market.
Why are we dwelling on this? Because it sets up the logic behind why Connor Williams needs to start…
It’s clear Williams has been a far better starter than McGovern this season, but even if he wasn’t, and the two were playing relatively similar, then it’s Williams who must get the benefit of the doubt and get the starting gig.
And it’s for two big reasons:
- Continuity – We hear it all the time about the O-line. Offensive lines work together to execute. Handling games/stunts and blitz’s requires trust and teamwork across the line. Moving parts around isn’t easy and usually comes at a cost. That’s why the recent mess of replacing him with Connor McGovern has gone so poorly. McGovern isn’t awful; he just needs time to develop with his linemates. Time that’s best given in the coming offseason.
- Compensatory Pick – the Dallas Cowboys love comp picks, almost to a fault. If they can snag a free mid-round draft pick and save money in the process, Stephen Jones is usually first in line. Since comp picks are awarded based on losing more talent in free agency than signing, it inherently saves money right away. And since draft picks become players signed to cheap multi-year deals, they also save money on the backend.
The key to it all is the player who leaves has to be valuable. The more valuable, the higher the comp pick. If Connor Williams finished this year like a top-20 guard again, he’s going to get a big multi-year deal this winter. That means Dallas will likely get a shiny new 3rd or 4th round pick as compensation.
So you can see they have a couple good reasons to make Connor Williams the starter again. As long as someone isn’t clearly head and shoulders better (and we don’t think La’el Collins as a guard or Connor McGovern are right now*), then it’s in their best interests to keep Williams in the starting lineup.
The offensive line was at it’s best when Connor McGovern was playing fullback and an extra blocking TE on the line. Let’s get back to everyone playing to their strengths again, shall we?
- Published on 12/07/2021 at 13:31 PM
- Last updated at 12/07/2021 at 13:31 PM