clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

PFF ranks Cowboys offensive line in Top-5, which shows tremendous rebound from week one

Oh, the Cowboys offensive line isn’t as bad as some thought after week one’s loss?

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

NFL: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys firm grasp on the title of “best offensive line in football” has loosened quite a bit with the reshuffling they have faced in recent years. Since the news broke about Travis Frederick’s condition that has no timetable for return, people just haven’t been as confident in this squad. When you’ve been a team that has three players on one unit that are arguably the best at their positions, any changes are going to cause panic. This is a team that is built on their offensive line. Without an All-Pro center, a career backup in his place, while also starting a rookie at left guard, there is certainly cause for concern.

After a couple of scares to their mainstays and having to watch a dysfunctional group of backups in the preseason, there wasn’t much to feel confident in. Then you add that six-sack performance in week one’s loss to the Panthers in the mix and yikes. Well, talk about an incredible rebound, the Cowboys line gave up zero sacks in week two.

We still might be a little concerned about the line, but Pro Football Focus is not afraid to sing their praises. In fact, they have Dallas at fourth best through two weeks of football:

Starting Lineup:

Left Tackle: Tyron Smith, 76.8

Left Guard: Connor Williams, 65.7

Center: Joe Looney, 57.1

Right Guard: Zack Martin, 89.9

Right Tackle: La’el Collins, 64.3

Rookie guard Connor Williams bounced back in a big way after a rough Week 1 outing to be one of the Cowboys’ highest-graded players against the Giants in Week 2. He didn’t allow a single pressure on 27 pass-block snaps. Unfortunately for Dallas, center Joe Looney hasn’t come close to imitating Travis Frederick. He was Dallas’ second lowest-graded player offensively this past week with a 50.0 overall grade.

Note: these rankings are a composite of game grades from 2017, and the first two weeks of this season for rookies and first-time starters.

We’ll get back to these rankings in a bit. Let’s go back to right before the season began when some folks on social media went as far as to claim that the Cowboys offensive line was in shambles or “not even Top-10 anymore.” These are knee-jerk reactions that don’t look at the entirety of what is going on. The Cowboys are missing one key component to their starting five and that’s Travis Frederick. Though he’s undoubtedly a big loss, as any All-Pro center would be, the Cowboys can minimize that loss a lot better than they could any of the other two All-Pro’s.

The Cowboys made trades at roster cuts because, like every other team in the NFL, they had concerns about the depth at the bottom of the roster. There were actually people on social media suggesting that these down roster moves were indicative of their doubts in the starting unit. Think about that, moves like the Parker Ehinger trade, where Dallas was able to convince a team to trade a veteran with starting experience in exchange for a rookie UDFA cornerback. Really? The point of contention with these bad takes was looking at the evidence used to make them. There is no question that the Cowboys know their offensive line is in much better shape than most teams can say in this league right now. Go ask the Giants or Seahawks how they plan to put out their five-alarm fires.

Any doubters who watched week one, where the Cowboys gave up six sacks to the Panthers, were instantly gratified. Well, at least right up until that same Cowboys line denied the Giants and only surrendered three quarterback hits last week.

It’s worth noting that out of all the offensive lines that gave up multiple sacks in week one, only the Falcons and Cowboys gave up zero in week two. Suddenly, this offensive line might be finding it’s groove and starting to gel. For PFF to rank them fourth after such a terrible week one, it’s shows how impressive their rebound really was. PFF gave Joe Looney the worst grade of the five but when was the last time you saw someone do this to Damon “Snacks” Harrison?

Since the Cowboys “Big-Three” of Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin have been together, they’ve been having to make adjustments. They swapped out Ronald Leary for La’el Collins in 2015, then swapped him back in 2016. In 2017, they lost Leary to free agency, signed former first-round bust Jonathan Cooper to start, and moved Collins out to right tackle because the decade-long starter Doug Free retired. All the while, their All-Pro left tackle, Tyron Smith, has been in and out of the lineup at different times in the past few years. In his place were the likes of Charles Brown, Emmett Cleary, Chaz Green, and Byron Bell. Somehow, the Cowboys have managed a 7-5 winning record in games Smith has either missed or didn’t finish. The Cowboys also finished every season since 2014 in the Top-10 in rushing, average length of their drives, and finished Top-10 in points per drive in every season but 2015, without Tony Romo.

There really is no unit in football that relies as heavily on continuity as the offensive line. The Cowboys current starting five barely had a cup of coffee together in this past preseason. What you have to hang your hat on is that rookie Connor Williams went from zero to hero in one week. Zack Martin is the best guard in football, he received the highest PFF grade of any lineman. Tyron Smith and La’el Collins are among the league’s better bookend tandems. Joe Looney has not been a liability though nobody will mistake him for Travis Frederick. The Cowboys are in much better shape than they’re given credit for. This league is full of teams that would trade the farm to be where the Cowboys are along their offensive line.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Blogging The Boys Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your Dallas Cowboys news from Blogging The Boys