There’s an old saying in football, if the announcers aren’t calling out an offensive lineman’s name, he must be doing a good job. Sacks, penalties, missed blocks, all these things will get an offensive lineman noticed so flying under-the-radar can be a good thing for that position. Flying under-the-radar just a bit this season is Travis Frederick’s remarkable recovery from Guillian-Barre Syndrome.
It must have been a very scary time for the Cowboys center when he was first starting to suffer from the symptoms of GBS back in training camp for the 2018 season. Once the doctors finally figured out what was ailing the Cowboys star center, it became apparent that his season was likely over, and there were lingering questions about how this could affect his career long-term.
It seems like Frederick has answered those questions about his career. He is back starting for the Cowboys at center, and while he might not be back to his old self just yet (PFF has his overall grade thus far at a very pedestrian 63.9), he has played every snap and he’s only been credited for one sack allowed. Harder to measure by services like PFF is Fredrick’s role as the “quarterback” of the line where he makes all the line calls about protections and audibles.
The fact that Fredrick is just handling his business has made the worry about the impact of GBS fade. When it comes to comeback players, you are usually talking about players returning from injury like Cooper Kupp (ACL). Frederick is returning from disease, which can be a much scarier concept.
1. Travis Frederick, C, Dallas Cowboys
As good as Brooks and Kupp have been, though, I have to give the nod to Frederick after recovering from Guillain-Barré syndrome. There are no easy injuries to come back from, of course, but while Brooks and Kupp had familiar timelines and rehab schedules to work with in returning from their injuries, Frederick was dealing with a rare virus and a totally uncertain future. There are only a few examples of players in other sports dealing with the illness and making it back onto the field, let alone returning to their prior level of play, with former Liverpool defender Markus Babbel as the most notable example.
Frederick was arguably the best center in football before missing all of 2018 with his illness. I’m not sure he’s been the best center in the league since returning from the ailment, but he’s been an above-average pivot on one of the league’s best lines this season, going all season without committing a single penalty. For Frederick to come back and play at a high level is incredibly brave.
Nice bit of love for Frederick. Barnwell seemingly hasn’t figured out that Mark Schlereth, an NFL offensive lineman, came back from GBS in the 90s and is the closest comparison for Frederick instead of a soccer player. Still, what Barnwell writes is true.
Frederick is putting GBS behind him even though he’s not quite up to his old standards yet. It’s some of the Cowboys other offensive linemen who are standing out this year.
4. DALLAS COWBOYS
Zack Martin and Tyron Smith have both been fantastic to start the season, but La’el Collins is simply not getting enough love for his efforts so far this season. Collins has earned an 89.1 overall grade and 91.0 pass-blocking grade across 380 offensive snaps through Week 8, well on his way to a career year. In addition to Collins’ drastic improvement, Martin and Smith both rank inside the top-20 among qualifying offensive linemen in overall grade.
The Cowboys offensive line is only allowing pressure on 27% of Dak Prescott’s dropbacks this season. That ranks 10th in the NFL according to PFF. One year ago, the Cowboys gave up the second-most sacks in the NFL, through week eight of the 2019 season, the Cowboys have given up the third-fewest sacks.
Welcome back, Travis Frederick.