It’s one thing when Cowboys fans, or the media, praise the Dallas offensive line. We’ve heard that over and over since the Cowboys have decided to re-build their front five through the draft. But when you hear an opposing NFL player sing the praises of the that unit, and the running game in general, you have to take notice.
Ryan Shazier is a linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s also a guy that could have been a Cowboy. The Dallas front office coveted Shazier in the 2014 draft, but the Steelers had the pick directly in front of the Cowboys and snatched him up. The Cowboys did pretty well anyway, picking up All-World guard Zack Martin.
Shazier has an article up at The Players’ Tribune about the five toughest guys he’s faced in the NFL. It starts out talking about Tyron Smith and how he is one of the toughest he’s ever faced, but quickly morphs into a gushing compliment about the Cowboys offensive line, and Ezekiel Elliott, too.
Here is Shazier on Tyron Smith:
Tyron Smith is a freaking Sasquatch out there playing football. He’s huge and he’s super quick, and when he gets his hands on you, forget it. It’s like they’re glued to you. You’re not getting out of his grasp. In my opinion, he’s the best tackle in the game.
A freaking Sasquatch! If that doesn’t become Smith’s nickname among his teammates then there is no justice in the world. We often hear about how quick and athletic Smith is for his size, but I think the one thing we hear more than anything is that when he gets his hands on an opponent, it’s over.
Shazier only spends a little time focusing on Smith; he quickly moves on to discuss the Cowboys entire offensive line
They have the most in-sync offensive line I’ve seen in the league. They move in unison, and they’re all in the perfect technique on every play, even in the pre-snap.
Shazier notes that many offensive linemen have tells that tip off whether a run or a pass is coming. Weight on the back foot, the way they place their hands on the ground, other little things that tip off a defense. He says the Cowboys have none of these.
He also discusses how the Cowboys not only move in unison, but they stick to their blocks and move the line of scrimmage four or five yards forward. He calls them the familiar “well-oiled machine.”
He then finishes his praises of the Cowboys running game with this:
As a linebacker, when you get heavy guys like Zeke and Le’Veon in open space, they run so hard that you don’t even want to tackle them as the game goes on. Every tackle costs you a little bit of punishment. Zeke is a heavy, heavy, heavy runner, and he wears defenses down.
We’ve noted how physical a runner Zeke is, even though people usually talk about his agility or vision. Zeke will punish defenders, and defenders around the league are taking notice.
It’s nice to read an unfiltered opinion of the Cowboys offensive line and running game from a player who knows.