Dallas Cowboys: Can Jason Peters effectively replace Terence Steele at RT

. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys won the battle on Sunday but their quest to win the war suffered an enormous blow when starting RT, Terence Steele, went down with a season ending knee injury.

Steele, regarded as one of the best run-blockers in the NFL, has been a cornerstone piece on the Cowboys offensive line this season. Together with RG Zack Martin, the right side of the Dallas line has helped pave the way for a resurgent running attack and has quickly become Kellen Moore’s favorite direction in which to call running plays.

Jason Peters ultimately replaced Terence Steele in the lineup but is he the long-term answer at RT for the Dallas Cowboys?

When Steele went down on Sunday, the next man up was second year tackle Josh Ball. Ball, a fourth round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, has the size (6-foot-7) and pedigree to be an decent NFL player. But after essentially redshirting as a rookie and struggling mightily in in relief on Sunday, there’s little reason to think he can adequately replace the injured Steele.

In 26 snaps Ball gave up a sack and a pressure (the later of which led to a Dak Prescott pick). That was enough for offensive line coach Joe Philbin to pull the plug and pivot to Plan C. It was also enough for LT/LG Jason Peters to happily accept his role as Plan C.

Jason Peters may seem like an obvious solution to the Dallas Cowboys problem at RT, but there’s nothing obvious about it. Moving from LT to RT is said to be like learning to write again with the opposite hand. As Sport DFW’s Steven Johnston always says – swing tackles aren’t a real thing.

More often than not, the only players who can switch from the left side to the right side with equal efficiency, are player who can’t do either side very well. The technique is opposite, the muscle memory is opposite, and the teammates are opposite (therefore the chemistry is nonexistent).

Jason Peters hasn’t played RT since the Bush Administration, so the idea a 40-year-old man, with a career’s worth of muscle memory to ignore, can come in an adequately replace Terence Steele is anything but a forgone conclusion.

Offensive line guru Duke Manyweather, who’s worked closely with Jason Peters, recently said as much this offseason…

Peters didn’t just accept the call-up to play a foreign position, he actually welcomed it. Before Philbin even tapped his shoulder, visions of playing southpaw were dancing in Peters’ head. A case can made that 98-yard game winning drive was made possible by such events. Had Josh Ball remained in, there’s no telling how quickly a pass-heavy drive would have lasted.

The question now is whether or not Jason Peters can repeat his performance and have continued success as the Dallas Cowboys starting RT. Just because he stopped Houston’s DEs, doesn’t mean he can produce the same results against the likes of Nick Bosa, Brandon Graham, Danielle Hunter, and Josh Sweat.

The good news is Terence Steele wasn’t all that great of a pass protector anyway. Pro Football Focus ranks Steele 20th overall at OT, but that’s largely propped by his run blocking. As a pass protector he’s near the very bottom of the league. While PFFs grading methods leave something to be desired, anyone who’s watched the film can see Steele is a liability in pass-pro.

The idea that Jason Peters can come in and upgrade the Cowboys as a passing offense isn’t absurd because the Dallas Cowboys have been the worst pass-protecting team in the NFL this season (Dead last in pass block win rate) and the threshold for improvement over Steele isn’t a high mark to make.

As a running offense, this unquestionably hurts. Steele’s movement and athleticism is irreplaceable so a certain degree of falloff should be expected. But if the alternative is Josh Ball, there really is no alterative.

The losses the Cowboys suffer as a running team are mitigated by the gains they could make as a passing team. And we can’t discount the impact we could see on the left side of the Cowboys offensive line, where the Dallas Cowboys are expecting two major upgrades in the near future.

How well Jason Peters can replace Terence Steele this season remains to be seen, but his ability to jump in cold on Sunday gives major reason for optimism.

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Don’t overlook the difficulty of moving from the left side of the line to the right side of the line. Jason Peters was special in relief on Sunday and we hope that it continues because the options are virtually non-existent.