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Can the left guard position keep the Cowboys out of the playoffs in 2017?

The Cowboys have done some moving and shaking along the offensive line this offseason, but can all these changes have an adverse effect?

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Buffalo Bills Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am for the 2017 season. With all the weaponry on offense, it is just going to be exhilarating watching that group on the field. And defensively, there will be some new, intriguing names in action...Jaylon Smith, Taco Charlton, and Chidobe Awuzie - tell me you aren’t jacked about seeing those guys play. And for the first time in my entire life, I’m even excited for Jeff Heath starting at strong safety. Have I gone mad?

Well, maybe. That’s what being 100% all-in on the happenings of your favorite sports team will do to you sometimes. As much fun as that is, it’s important to try to be objective. Is it possible that I’m giving this team too much credit? What about their deficiencies? The Cowboys certainly have areas they need to get better at, but there isn’t really one spot that truly has me worried.

Then, I came across our old friend rabblerousr’s tweet as he was answering the question, “Is there reason for concern about the Cowboys offensive line?”

What reasons are there? Sure, last year the Cowboys entered the season with two starter-quality guys fighting for one spot at left guard and now they have a slew of mediocrity fighting for that same spot. That’s certainly a negative. But the Cowboys have a lot of interesting candidates. Surely, one of them will work out, right?

Well, that’s my feeling, but there are no guarantees. If the team really struggled at the left guard position, that could hinder the awesomeness of this offense. Nobody wants to see that happen (well, except for rival NFC East fans), but is something like that even a possibility? Let’s take a glass is half empty approach and look at the worse case scenario of this situation and see if there’s a reason to be legitimately concern.

Chaz Green gets hurt

This one is easy to see. Green has spent most of his college and pro career injured. Most fans aren’t even considering him in the mix because that would just give them false hope. Anything they get from Green would be a bonus, so just cross him off the list.

Jonathan Cooper is a bust

The former college star is now playing for the Arizona Cardinals New England Patriots Cleveland Browns Dallas Cowboys. When Cooper was traded to the Patriots as part of the deal that sent Chandler Jones to Arizona, some thought that maybe he still had some upside. However, the real meat of that deal was the draft pick New England received as they came to terms with the idea that they weren’t going to pay Jones once he hit free agency so they might as well get something. Things didn’t work out for Cooper in New England so that’s a little bit of red flag if you’re of the belief that they know what they’re doing over there when it comes to personnel decisions. Even more alarming is that the Browns couldn’t even find use for him. How bad do you have to be to not even be able to make their squad?

If you are worried about Green’s injury filled past, then the Cooper experiment should have you frightened as well. Here’s his injury resume:

2013 - broken left fibula

2014 - turf toe, knee, and left wrist

2015 - knee

2016 - right foot

Some fans are still enamored by his draft stock, but let’s slow your roll on that one. Maybe Cooper’s career can be restored in Dallas, but the best thing to do is expect the worse. He just hasn’t been the same player after that injury his rookie season.

Byron Bell is too slow

The free agent acquisition of Bell was a smart move. He was cheap and he offered the team some position flexibility. He would make a good reserve player, but is he really the guy you want starting? Bell is a power guy and having him compete for a guard spot versus a tackle is plus for the team. He uses his length very well and can hold his own against strong rushers. But the Cowboys offensive line rely on the quickness of their unit. Bell is shover and uses his size and muscle to beat you with his strength, however when you get him on the move, he becomes a liability. The Cowboys need to have a guard who can pull and get into the second level and Bell isn’t a guy who can do that effectively.

On the positive side, the Cowboys recognized his mobility as a concern and have wagered some bonus money for him to slim down. So far, he’s doing it and a thinner Bell could help with his quickness.

Joe Looney is just another guy

Last year’s free agent signing meant very little to anyone. The Cowboys were already stacked at guard so the only appeal of Looney was that he could handle the backup center job that had previously been held by Mackenzy Bernadeau. Looney’s role in the Cowboys offense turned out to be bigger than people expected. He saw a little time filling in for an injured Ron Leary (who was filling in for an injured La’el Collins). And when tight end Geoff Swaim got hurt, the Cowboys used Looney as an extra blocker known as the “Jumbo Joe” package.

This arrangement worked out nicely for Dallas as Looney was a solid blocker for them and they would love to keep using him in that manner. But that doesn’t mean he is qualified to handle a starting spot. Similar to Bell, he doesn’t bend his knees well and his mobility is suspect. He’s a better anchor blocker than a guy who can move in space.

None of this paints a great picture for any one of these players to be a strong addition. Some people will say, “Well, Leary wasn’t very mobile either.” Indeed, he wasn’t. Leary was also a power guy that didn’t explode off the ball. But one thing Leary did have was a competitiveness that saw he routinely keeping his blocks going. He would take you along for the ride.

Can the Cowboys find an adequate replacement with the guys they got? They certainly have plenty of darts to throw. Let’s just hope one sticks because if something goes bad with all of these guys, then it will definitely be felt on offense. A strong unit means that reigning rushing champ, Ezekiel Elliott will be able to run wild and that is very important if the Cowboys are going to make a deep run this year.

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