When Dallas Cowboys guard Ron Leary left the team in free agency, and the coaches decided they needed La’el Collins at right tackle to replace the retired Doug Free instead of replacing Leary, there was a big, gaping hole at left guard. For a brief moment in time, it looked like the Dallas Cowboys might be on their way to a solution to their left guard problem. They shifted reserve tackle Chaz Green over to the spot, and he was getting plenty of time with the 1’s during early camp. Reviews were generally positive and if he could just stay healthy, he may be able to grab the spot.
I didn't see anything that was a cause for concern assignment-wise from Chaz Green working with the first unit at left guard. His pickups were clean, assignments sound and technique was where it needed to be. He and Tyron Smith appeared to work well together sorting out a moving defensive front with a blitz from the secondary consisting of Jeff Heath and Orlando Scandrick. Green has a shot to win this job over Jonathan Cooper if he can just maintain his health this training camp. That's really the only question mark.
That question mark, his health, soon came into play as Green has been out since July 30th with a shoulder injury. So instead of closing in on a replacement, the competition for the spot is now a three-man game. Jonathan Cooper was Green’s primary challenger, but free agent acquisition Byron Bell has also worked his way into the mix.
** With Chaz Green bothered by a shoulder strain, I wonder if the Cowboys will give Byron Bell a look in the left guard competition with Jonathan Cooper. He split some first-team work in Monday’s practice. Cooper started the Hall of Fame Game and played a couple of series, but Bell played a lot. He missed last season due to injury, but the Cowboys like his versatility -- he can play tackle -- and experience. The easy thing to say is a team doesn’t need to worry much about who is between Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, but defenses can create one-on-one matchups. Bell has the size and strength to hold up in the interior but maybe not the movement. I remember Tony Romo saying he would rather be as stout as possible up the middle because he could deal with outside pass-rushers easier. If there was no pocket to step into, then he was in trouble.
Cooper got the start during the Hall of Fame game, with Bell also getting plenty of work. Some have even thrown Joe Looney’s name into the mix, although during the HoF game he played center. Our own DannyPhanton didn’t have glowing reviews for any of them, with Cooper coming out slightly ahead.
Joe Looney was being bullied around. On one play, the defender just shoved him straight back into Darren McFadden’s running lane, resulting in a four-yard loss. Maybe playing center and coming off the snap caused him to be slow in anchoring down, but he didn’t play like anyone that should be starting.
Byron Bell was always on the ground. He struggled with his balance, sometimes just lunging at the defender.
Jonathan Cooper looked the best out of all of them. While he never pushed the defender forward, he also never got pushed back. He held his own for most of his reps.
Cooper is a guy with a lot of support from the fan base because of his high draft pedigree and outstanding college career. He looks like a natural guard having played the position for a long time. The Cowboys and Jerry Jones were big fans of his coming out of college.
In January, owner Jerry Jones said the Cowboys "lusted" for Cooper and "almost died when Arizona took him." Later that week, Jones added: "Same cats that picked [Smith, Frederick and Martin] are the same guys who thought Cooper was going to be the next coming."
The Cowboys liked Byron Bell for his experience and versatility. Jason Garrett had this to say:
“He’s done a good job you know, he’s a veteran player, he’s played a lot of football in the NFL. He’s played tackle and guard and we saw him on tape a lot, playing against NFL defensive lineman and that’s one of the reasons we brought him here.
He’s done a really nice job with his weight. He was heavier in the early part of the offseason. He’s gotten his weight down, he’s gotten in shape. He’s understanding how we want our offensive lineman to play and were giving him a really good opportunity. He’s come to work every day and he’s getting better and better.”
When no one steps forward to grab a starting spot by the throat, you start to wonder if any of the candidates are qualified for the job. Right now, there is no clear-cut consensus on who will be the starting left guard when the season starts.
Who would you predict to win the job? Take the poll and hit the comments.
Who will be the Cowboys starting left guard heading into the 2017 season?
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