It’s hard to recall watching a player sack a Dallas Cowboys quarterback more times in a game than what Adrian Clayborn did last season. Of course, there’s a reason for that - it’s never happened before. Clayborn set a single-game record for sacks from a Cowboys opponent when he brought Dak Prescott to the turf six times. It was one short of the all-time single-game record by any team set by Kansas City Chiefs great, Derrick Thomas. All day long, Clayborn just pinned his ears back and just let loose on the Cowboys reserve left tackles as Dallas was without their All-Pro stud, Tyron Smith. The backups struggled, highlighted by the inept play of Chaz Green, who allowed four of Clayborn’s six sacks.
It was a day to forget for the Green, who held himself accountable for his terrible showing.
“This obviously wasn’t my best day at all,” Green said. “I take this on my shoulders. I’m going to look myself in the mirror and just fix the things that I need to fix. I’m going to get it fixed. ...I got caught leaning and out of balance -- that kills you in pass pro. If you give them that easy break, they’re going to take it.”
Green has never been a popular choice as his draft selection was perceived as a huge reach. Of course, we’ve heard that type of talk before so it wasn’t that hard to give the brain trust in Dallas the benefit of the doubt as they’ve done a great job of finding talent at the offensive line position. But most of the criticism for Green resulted from durability issues. His college career at Florida was plagued with injuries as he missed four games his freshmen year, two games his sophomore year, and then missed his entire junior season with a torn labrum.
His health didn’t improve once he got to the NFL. He suffered a hip injury his rookie year that required surgery and put him on PUP. He didn’t see his first NFL action until 2016 when he filled in for an injured Tyron Smith. He looked pretty good, but then proceeded to miss several weeks after suffering a sprained foot. Shortly thereafter, he developed a herniated disc that required surgery and he was placed on injured reserve for the rest of the year. And last season, it was more of the same. Lingering back issues caused him to miss time during OTA’s. A strained rotator cuff sidelined him in training camp. And he missed practice with hip bursitis that opened the door for Jonathan Cooper to sneak in and take the starting left guard position from him.
With Cooper performing alright, Green was relegated to a bench role where he would serve as the team’s swing tackle. And when Tyron Smith got hurt midway through the season, Green’s number was called again, but this time - it wasn’t pretty. Against the Atlanta Falcons, Green completely forgot how to play left tackle. It was disastrous. Play after play, we all witnessed a helpless Green surrender a sack full of sacks at the hands of Clayborn. He played so badly, that the team resorted to benching him and going with Byron Bell, who as it turned out - was also terrible. It looked like the beginning of the end for Green.
Chaz is still on the Cowboys roster. For some of us, that’s a painful thing to think about because the Atlanta debacle haunts us continuously. Most of us never want to see him on the field again. But is that how the Cowboys feel? The front office did a great job of improving the offensive line depth by signing free agent Cameron Fleming and drafting Texas’ star lineman Connor Williams. Green is no longer in the conversation of competing for the starting left guard position. Nor is he a swing tackle candidate. If Green is to remain on the roster, it’s going to be at the very bottom of the depth chart. With the Cowboys six strong at OL, that realistically leaves only two more spots available. Joe Looney, Marcus Martin, and Kadeem Edwards are all in the mix fighting for a roster spot so if Green is going to stick around, he’s got to prove he’s more valuable than two of those guys.
The Cowboys saw something in Green to make him their third-round pick in 2015. He’s a smart player who has a good feel for picking up blitzes and adjusting to stunts and twists. He gets off the ball quickly and showed solid footwork in college. And his combination of athleticism and strength gives the team the freedom to move him around the line, which they have already attempted to do.
But Green still has a lot of parts to his game that need work. His hand usage is really bad and at times it looked as if he was trying to block with his arms behind his back. Pass rushers just blew right by him. He’s not able to anchor down, square up, and jab at his opponent in order to keep him from barreling through. His 2017 performance exposed him as a complete liability.
But that was then. What will 2018 Green look like?
Whether or not Green makes the Cowboys roster will come down to how much improvement he can show between now and roster cuts. The fact that he played well in 2016 means there’s still hope. It’s entirely possible that the move inside completely messed with his mojo to where he forgot how to play tackle. Maybe he can get some of that mojo back. Maybe new offensive line coach Paul Alexander can Miyagi him and help him restore his balance. If he shows enough improvement, it could be beneficial to hang on to him in hopes he can develop into a solid swing tackle. Fleming is only on a one-year deal so the Cowboys are going to need someone to hold down the gig next year. Can Green be that guy? Who knows, but for that to happen, the first order of business is holding down that final roster spot.