The Dallas Cowboys are struggling on offense this season. If you look at the numbers, it’s a little discouraging.
There are lot of different theories going around as to why this offense is playing so poorly. Most of it centers around the play of quarterback Dak Prescott. Our own Connor Livesay does a great job of breaking down his mechanics and how they are contributing to his sub-par play this season. Some of the criticism is directed at the play-calling, including comments made by Cowboys receiver Allen Hurns. Even the receivers themselves have been under fire to where Hurns and even Cole Beasley have felt compelled to defend the position group.
While all these factors play a part in the poor play of the offense, another group also shoulders part of the blame - the offensive line. The Cowboys have invested quite a bit into their offensive line over the years with four players - Zack Martin ($14 M), Tyron Smith ($12.2 M), Travis Frederick ($9.4 M), and La’el Collins ($7.7 M) accounting for nearly one-quarter of the team’s salary cap resources. And let’s not forget they just used a second-round pick on rookie Connor Williams in April’s draft. Expectations are that this group performs at a high level or else they are mismanaging their financial resources.
Unfortunately, life gave them some lemons when Travis Frederick was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, an auto-immune disease that affects the nervous system. Frederick was placed on injured reserve last weekend, keeping him out for at least the next seven weeks.
With Frederick out, backup center Joe Looney has been filling in and he’s been solid this season. Pro Football Focus recently ranked the offensive line of all 32 NFL teams so far this year. The top 10 are as follows:
And rounding out the top 10 are our beloved...
This is a fair assessment of the Cowboys offensive line. Zack Martin has now emerged as the team’s best offensive linemen. Despite J.J. Watt notching a rare sack against him on Sunday night, those two exchanged blows all night with Zack winning his fare share of battles. Here, he gives J.J. a little nudge just to let him know he’s thinking about him.
J.J. Watt vs. La'el Collins pic.twitter.com/dSXDGJPUor— Kevin Boilard (@247KevinBoilard) October 8, 2018
While Martin has been a model of consistency, the same cannot be said for the other remaining All-Pro lineman still suiting up for them. Tyron Smith has been good at times, but also shaky at times. He already has three penalties on the season with a hold, false start, and illegal block in the back.
Speaking of penalties, La’el Collins is getting flagged almost every game. He already has been called for four holding penalties (two have been declined) as well as a false start.
Cowboys offensive line penalties this season is not what I expected...— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) October 11, 2018
Tyron Smith + La'el Collins = 8 penalties (2 holding penalties declined)
Zack Martin, Joe Looney, and Connor Williams = 1 penalty (holding by the rookie)
What is odd is that the interior line, with two new pieces, have shown more discipline that the veterans out on the edge. The only penalty the inside guys have comes from the rookie Williams.
The Cowboys offensive line is not as dominant as they once were. That was never more evident when Jason Garrett opted to punt on fourth down in overtime against the Houston Texans. In past seasons, he wouldn’t have thought twice about running down the defenses throat with an offensive line that could impose it’s will on their opponents.
Of course the offensive line is only a part of the Cowboys offensive woes, but they are definitely a part of it. A top 10 unit is still pretty good, but pretty good won’t cut it. They need to be outstanding. We know it’s in them because we’ve seen it. They played extremely really well against Detroit and the result was the team’s only 400+ offensive performance of the season.
It’s going to be a challenge for this group with each new game, especially with some of the tough defensive fronts they’ll face this season. Defenses are really coming after Ezekiel Elliott. And they know that anytime they get pressure on Prescott, the Cowboys offense usually sputters. But if the Cowboys can survive and stay in the NFC East hunt, help should eventually be on the way. Frederick was asked by 105.3 The Fan about the decision to put him on IR and his outlook for when he might be able to return.
“Yes, I did go on IR, but that doesn’t specifically mean I’ll be on IR for the season. At this point, I have to sit out seven more games before I’m eligible to come back and play. (At the time of the decision to not place him on IR) That’s where I was in my recovery process. I’d say it’s more about the time I’ve missed than the time I have left in my recovery,” Frederick said. “Every week that you’re missing (doing your workouts and practicing) is more time that you have to make up to get into shape.
”We were getting to the point in the season where with a little bit of recovery time, and the time to get that back, was going to be about 8 weeks. The team decided that was going to be the move just so we could get that clock ticking ... that if in 8 weeks I’m ready to go, I can jump back in.”
If Frederick is ready when his eight weeks are up, then that puts him back on the field when the Cowboys host the Philadelphia Eagles. That’s a big game. It would sure be nice if the Cowboys had the better offensive line on that day. The season might depend on it.