The Dallas Cowboys offensive line was always going to be mystery this season. From the gambles taken behind Tyron Smith at LT, to the replacements brought in at LG, to the questions at RT and C, to the overall cohesion of a heavily churned unit, questions were abound.
So inquiring minds wanted to know how they looked when they finally took the field in real game action. And the Dallas Cowboys offered up more than a few surprises…
The Dallas Cowboys offensive line featured standout performers and even earned a top ranking in a specific phase of the game.
ESPN’s Next Gen Stats, the most respected performance grader for activity in the trenches, broke down the film and scored individual linemen and collective units. The most unsurprising result: Zack Martin is good. Martin earned a perfect pass blocking win rate (PBWR) score. While his run block win rate (RBWR) didn’t rank this first week, it’s something we expect to change.
Terence Steele, the Dallas Cowboys RT, struggled significantly in pass protection (as we all expected) but he cracked the top-10 in RBWR. Another player who couldn’t pass protect to save his life was the replacement LG, Matt Farniok. Similar to Steele, he countered his deficiencies in pass pro, with aptness to run block. Farniok was the No. 2 in the NFL in RBWR, scoring a 92%.
Finally we have Tyler Biadasz at center who, you guessed it, underwhelmed in pass protection but ranked in the top-5 in RBWR. While this is only one week’s worth of data, it’s nice to see so many questionable players produce solid results (even if they are not well-round performers).
How did the Dallas Cowboys o-line do as a unit?
As you may expect, the Dallas Cowboys O-line stood out in more ways than one. As pass protectors, they rated 28th in the NFL. Their 44% PBWR was tied with the Chargers and just barely ahead of the Panthers, Jaguars, and Lions (not great company to keep).
As run blockers the Dallas Cowboys were on the opposite end of the spectrum. Their 83% RBWR was by far the best in the NFL (5 points ahead of No. 2) as they paved the way for Ezekiel Elliott against one of the best run-stopping lines in football.
What does this mean? Not a ton given the one week sample size, but it shouldn’t be disregarded either. Players were winning match-ups in run blocking and losing match-ups in pass protection. The results on the field showed this. But context also plays a part. The Cowboys opponent in week 1 was back in coverage most of the day and not overly concerned with the run. They allowed Dallas to find success on the ground and focused on coverage and stopping the pass.
With Dak Prescott out for at least a month, that will likely change. Teams will be less worried about the pass and will likely focus in on Zeke. This is something we’ll monitor each week to assess.
While all of us expected the Dallas Cowboys to be better run blockers than pass protectors, I don’t think we knew the Cowboys would be THIS bad in pass protection and THIS good in run blocking. The goal going forward has to be to be less one-dimensional