The Dallas Cowboys finished their preseason with few questions, but one question mark was certainly at the tackle position. Of course, Dallas has one of, if not the, premier offensive lines in football, but one smart person once said your are only as good as your depth. That can't be truer than with the Cowboys' latest claim. Over the past few seasons, the Cowboys had the luxury of having a starting caliber tackle as their primary backup. Though Jermey Parnell certainly needed plenty of grooming to get there, he turned his development into a nice contract and promotion with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
His departure was one of the more underrated losses on the entire Cowboys roster. Though Dallas did all they could to rectify the loss by drafting Chaz Green in the third round, drafting Laurence Gibson in the seventh, and furthering the development of Darrion Weems, it proved to still be an area of concern after the preseason. Weems has the tools to play the position but the coaches became very concerned with his inconsistent play at left tackle. Will McClay and the scouting department knew they needed to get some insurance there with the age and injury history of Doug Free. Needless to say, they have done so by signing former Bears starter Jordan Mills.
We must preface the signing by saying he does need some work, but it still leaves the Cowboys better off than before. Mills was a fifth-round selection out of Louisiana Tech for the Bears in 2013 and has started 29 of 32 games since he came to the team. As part of LA Tech's zone scheme in 2011, Mills started 13 games and created huge holes as the Bulldogs cruised to 1800+ yards on the ground. As a senior, Mills started 12 games and was given First-team All-Conference honors.
After he was drafted, Mills battled with sixth-round selection DE Cornelius Washington all training camp and eventually won the starting right tackle position after a standout performance in the preseason. Mills started every game in his rookie season and only gave up three sacks in 1,022 plays. Mills would eventually win the Brian Piccolo Award jointly with former Bears quarterback Josh McCown (Bears players vote for teammates who best exemplify the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and sense of humor of Brian Piccolo, a Bears running back who died from cancer at the age of 26). Mills had an up-and-down 2014 campaign, as did the Chicago Bears in general. According to PFF, Mills was responsible for six sacks allowed last season in 839 snaps, with a paltry -15.7 grade. Not a very good way to follow up his rookie year, but as mentioned before, the Bears struggled overall. Coincidentally, Mills was waived yesterday as the Bears continue to churn their roster.
However, Mills actually improved towards the end of last season with really outstanding outings against the Saints, Lions and our Cowboys. Dallas' pass rush had a very hard time with Mills, who only allowed one quarterback hurry and had a +4.8 PFF grade for the game. It was more impressive that he was able to fend off the ferocious Detroit Lions pass rush the week before though, only giving up one sack on a failed blitz pickup by Matt Forte.
What Mills gives the Cowboys is an experienced NFL starter that struggled on a bad team. Of course, the coaches are not going to listen to excuses about why he struggled, they just want to coach the player. The Cowboys have an outstanding offensive staff and really need someone to take the reins of the swing tackle opening. Mills can certainly do that and should only get better with more practice time and experience. Mills was looking for a fresh start and he wasn't out of work long as he now gets to join a group that's the envy of the National Football League. Hopefully, Mills can step up and show these coaches rather quickly why he was drafted in the first place.
Meet the Cowboys new swing-tackle: Jordan Mills.
The Cowboys, who have best starting OL in football, also now have a 1st round talent & 24-year old that has started 29 NFL games as reserves— Field Yates (@FieldYates) September 7, 2015