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chaz green

Cowboys’ Dominant O-Line Could be an Issue in 2018

The Cowboys’ offensive line has been considered one of the best in the NFL for the past few years. Most of this is due to the outstanding play of Pro Bowlers Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin. The problem is not that their play is declining or their talent is diminishing, but that their health may not be able to keep up.

Zack Martin left the second preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals with a knee injury. The good news is that there is no ligament damage; he was diagnosed with a hyperextended knee and bone. However, knee problems and offensive lineman have never been a good mix. Martin will not play in the last two preseason games, and aims to be back for week 1 against the Carolina Panthers.

Travis Frederick had been dealing with a ‘stinger’ since August 15th. He missed the preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals and has had several doctor’s appointments since then. A week later, on August 22nd he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare autoimmune disorder that affects the nerves. The Mayo Clinic says that for most people with GBS, the condition worsens for 2 weeks after the first signs and symptoms and plateaus within a month. Recovery usually lasts 6-12 months, but could take as long as three years. Jerry Jones was optimistic that Frederick would play week 1 before the diagnosis, but now Frederick says there is no timetable for his return.

The third and best of this trio, is Tyron Smith. He has looked like his future gold jacket wearing self in the first two preseason games, and says that he is “feeling great now” and is “in the best shape I’ve been in a while”. Unfortunately, that is coming from a 6’5″ 320 pound man who had bulging disk problems in 2016, and missed several games due to back, hip, groin and knee problems in 2017. If you had to think of injuries not to have as an NFL left tackle, at least 3 of those would be in the top 5. Dak Prescott would be the first to tell you Smith’s importance to the Dallas offense, considering Dak was sacked 8 times in the first game Tyron missed due to injury last year. It should be noted that 6 of those sacks were by Adrian Clayborn, the defensive end that Smith would have been responsible for blocking.

With Cameron Fleming added through free agency there is seemingly better depth at tackle than last year. He is a swing tackle that can fill in better than Chaz Green did in 2017. Second round draft pick Connor Williams will most likely be starting at left guard opposite Zack Martin (if healthy). Joe Looney started at center in the absence of Frederick against the Bengals, and looked as if he could benefit from a few more reps in the final two preseason games. La’el Collins is holding his own at the right tackle position, and seems to be feeling more comfortable with each snap.

All in all, the Cowboys offensive line is a force to be reckoned with…if healthy. But if injuries become an issue, especially with the three All-Pro lineman, Zeke will not be saying “feed me” as much and Dak will be running for his life. Jason Garrett better be praying for a healthy offensive line in 2018, or he may be finding himself getting his resume together in January.

 

 

UPDATE: La’el Collins limping with heavily taped ankle on 8/23/18. Yup, the only healthy Cowboys offensive lineman in rookie, Connor Williams.

4 Games In…3 Big Concerns

The first quarter of the 2017 NFL season is over; and while it’s still a very young season, there is much to be learned. These are my three largest concerns heading into week 5 of the season.

What’s going on with Dak?
His stats are actually pretty decent. Dak has 8 passing touchdowns and only 3 picks this year. I realize he only had 4 picks all of last year, but he only had 3 passing touchdowns through 4 weeks last season. I will take a 2:1 TD to INT ratio any day.
But something just isn’t right. He is having accuracy issues that he did not seem to have last year. There are times when it is difficult to decipher if Dak is throwing the ball away or actually trying to hit his target. This issue has been evident ever since he missed a wide open Dez in the season opener against the Giants. Is he losing confidence, going through a normal sophomore slump, or have we just replaced our all-time passing leader for a random 4th round pick? Time will be the ultimate judge, but it does make you wonder where would the Cowboys be today if he had the same issues last year. Would Dak be the Cowboys starting quarterback today, and would Phil Simms still have his job?
The Leary Effect
I’m completely sure Jonathan Cooper should have started over Chaz Green the first four games of the year. Cooper is simply better at left guard than Chaz Green. However, it doesn’t take a great NFL mind to notice our offensive line is not playing at the same level as last year. As sure as I am that Cooper is greater than Green, I am just as confident that Leary is greater than Cooper.
Was Leary the undervalued piece of our interior push last year? It’s hard to argue against that based off the first four games of the season. The only other change is La’el Collins replacing Doug Free at right tackle. Although Free brought a lot of experience to the table, Collins has handled his own against the NFL pass rushing elites.
DeMarcus Lawrence is the Defense’s Ride or Die
A significant DeMarcus Lawrence injury would provide a death blow to the Cowboys defense. Against the Rams, Goff was under pressure in different parts of the game, but Lawrence was the only Cowboy who registered a sack. DeMarcus has 7.5 sacks for the year, leaving the rest of the Cowboys with a grand total of 5.5 sacks. DeMarcus has been the only bright star on this defense outside of an injured Sean Lee. DeMarcus only needs 0.5 a sack to meet his season high sack total, and should easily have over 15 sacks this year. David Irving returns from his four week suspension against the Packers this week, and can give Lawrence a partner in crime. This will hopefully shift some of the attention on DeMarcus from offensive coordinators for the remainder of the season. Also, has anyone heard from our first round draft pick lately?
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