Now onto the offensive line. I think Jerry Jones’s greatest accomplishment is not the 3 Super Bowls or turning the Cowboys into the most profitable sports franchise in the world but getting an entire fan base to not only know every offensive lineman’s name but get legitimately hyped about how good they are.
I have never talked to fans who care more about O-line play than Cowboys fans over the last 5-7 years. This year though they will have to do with only two all-pros on the roster following the retirement of TravisFredrick. With three spots set, left tackle, right tackle and right guard, a lot of attention is being paid to who will win the left guard and center spots on the roster.
Last season Football Outsiders graded the Cowboys line as the second best in the NFL behind the Saints. Only 13% of the runs were stuffed and the sack rate was 4.3%, which has a lot with Dak not holding onto the ball too long as he had in the past. And in the preview of 2020 offensive lines Pro Football Focus put the Cowboys line at three behind the Colts and the Saints respectively. So even with the loss of Travis Frederick the Cowboys line is expected to still be one of the best.
The demise of Tyron Smith has been greatly exaggerated. While he may not be the clear-cut best in the game LT, he was a few years ago because of injuries, he is still one of the better tackles in the game, now he might not even be the best tackle on his own team. In PFFs tackle grades where they rank both right and left tackles together Smith was 16. His pass blocking grade was slightly higher than the run blocking grade. The injuries have started to pile up, so while he is still one of the best when he is in the game you can count on him missing 3-4 games each year, which has made the depth of the line more important.
To the other side of the line and to the man who may be one of the most underrated players in the NFL, La’el Collins. PFF has him graded as the #5 overall tackle and third RT in the NFL with a grade of 86.4. His run blocking grade was higher than pass blocking, which when he was at guard his run blocking always stood out. At 27 years old and entering his sixth season in the league and fourth at right tackle, he could make improvements and if that pass blocking gets a little better, more people may be talking about him as one of, if not the best RT in the NFL.
Now onto the man who is the best O-lineman on this team and arguably the top guard in football, Zack Martin. There isn’t much left to say about him that hasn’t been said already. (Remember when people thought the Cowboys should draft Johnny Manziel over him?) He has only missed 2 games since he came into the league, both in 2018. PFF graded him as the third best guard with a score of 88.1, behind Ben Brooks, who is out for this next season, and fellow Notre Dame alum, Quentin Nelson.
The other two positions on the line are where the intrigue is, although not having a full normal offseason may have shrunk the chances of anyone taking the spot of the incumbents. It looks like Jumbo Joe Looney has wrapped up the starting center spot over rookie Tyler Biadasz. Looney has one year of starting under his belt from the year Frederick missed. Dak and the line did not play as well that season, which is expected when you lose an All Pro level player, but one of the issues was communication. Dak is more experienced now and should be able to handle some of that himself, along with having more experience with Looney being the man snapping the ball. It’s obvious McCarthy and the Cowboys scouts liked Biadasz because the traded up to get him. If this were a more normal offseason, he may have had a chance to grab that starting spot, but given the situation, going with the veteran and giving Biadasz a shot at the job next offseason is the safest route. If he pans out the Cowboys got a starting center in the fourth round, which would be a steal.
The left guard position has much of the same situation as the center. In the battle of the Connors, Williams will most likely win out over McGovern. Williams was ranked as the 47th out of the 83 guards ranked by PFF. Given how highly Williams was regarded as a possible tackle prospect coming out of Texas, his struggles in the NFL have been disappointing. He has yet to play a full season, but he is entering his third season where lineman do tend to make that jump, if they are going to make one. If he doesn’t make that jump McGovern may get his chance to prove why the Cowboys had a higher grade on him than Trysten Hill in the 2019 draft. We haven’t seen much of McGovern at all, he was injured last her, missed all of the season and now with no preseason what the former third round pick looks like remains mostly a mystery to everyone not on the Cowboys staff.
Smith, Williams, Looney, Martin and Collins should be your five starters going into the opener against the Rams. When you lose a talent like Frederick the line is going to not be as good, but the potential is there. If Williams finally figures it out and Collins takes another step, this line could be the best line we have seen in a long time.
Biadasz, McGovern and veteran Cam Erving, who while not a great backup has played center, guard and tackle in the NFL, will be your primary backups. With Collins starting the year on IR, Erving is going to get some work right out of the gate. Hopefully Collins will be back after those first three games and Erving can go back to being a swing tackle quickly.
The Cowboys will keep 10 linemen on the roster, so the final two spots went to second year tackle Brandon Knight and rookie Terence Steele.