Top 10 offensive lines in NFL: Tight race between Eagles, Steelers for top spot ahead of Cowboys, Colts, Patriots - Sean Wagner-McGough, CBS Sports
The Cowboys’ offensive line was once unquestionably the best in the NFL, but the last few years have seen them fall a bit. Looking to rebound after a season that was filled with injuries, one ranking thinks the unit is the third best in the league heading into the 2019 season.
The Cowboys used to have the league’s best offensive line. Now, they only have one of the league’s best offensive lines. A bad back has plagued Tyron Smith in recent years. Travis Frederick battled Guillain-Barre syndrome all of last season. Connor Williams dealt with a knee injury. Zack Martin also had to overcome a knee issue.
According to Football Outsiders, the Cowboys ranked 28th in pass protection, although they fared much better as a run-blocking unit, ranking eighth. If they can get healthy, the Cowboys have a chance to reclaim their spot atop the table.
In their own offensive line rankings, the analysts over at Pro Football Focus ranked the Cowboys’ line second in the NFL, just behind the Eagles. They seem to be counting on Travis Frederick’s return and Connor Williams’ improvement as the main reasons for this high ranking.
Zack Martin and Tyron Smith have been long-time members of the league’s club of elite offensive linemen, but have had to pick up slack along the offensive line on account of recent struggles. Dallas was top-10 in interior pressure allowed from 2014 to 2017 until Travis Frederick’s injury. His return, paired with hopeful improvement from rookie-turned-sophomore Connor Williams, should aid in the unit’s recovery to its former glory.
The main reason for the Cowboys offensive line’s struggles last year was injuries; the only starter to not miss any significant time with injury was La’el Collins. Heading into the 2019 season, there are several reasons to believe that the unit can overcome those pitfalls.
However, the biggest reason for optimism is the offensive line’s versatility. Williams can play guard or his collegiate position of tackle, McGovern has played multiple positions on the interior and Collins started his NFL career at guard before moving to right tackle. The club has apparently promised Williams a tackle spot at some point in his future.
The goal is to get the best starting five on the field and the Cowboys should be able to find the right combination to excel in 2019. Whoever the odd man out is will make for an outstanding substitute and should allow for play at a high level if an injury occurs.
On Tuesday, NFL Network announced that three of the Cowboys’ preseason games will be aired live on the network. While it’s just preseason, it shows how great the draw of the Cowboys still is, and fans will be able to get a better look at how the team will do in 2019.
The week one battle against the San Francisco 49ers will be broadcast live on Saturday, August 10 at 9:00 p.m. EST on NFL Network. This will be the first opportunity for the new members of the team to put their skills on display, and they will do so in front of a national audience.
The second game that will be aired live on NFL Network takes place on Saturday, August 17 at 10:00 p.m. EST. This is the game between the Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams, which will pit the two Super Bowl contenders in a pseudo-rematch of the Divisional Round game.
Finally, the Cowboys will have one more game broadcast live on NFL Network during the preseason, which is the August 24 battle between the Houston Texans and the Cowboys. This fight for Texas supremacy will take place at 7:00 p.m. EST on Saturday. As the true “dress rehearsal” before the regular season, it’s likely that this game will be the best opportunity to watch Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and Ezekiel Elliott in action before week one.
Dallas Cowboys starting safety: Jeff Heath, George Iloka or Eric Berry? - Steven Mullenax, The Landry Hat
After an offseason that seemed like the Cowboys were gearing up to bolster their strong safety position, the front-runner for now is still incumbent starter Jeff Heath. Free agent signee George Iloka will battle for the job, and there’s also potential that the team could still sign someone else.
At an impressive 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, Iloka would appear to possess the size Cowboys’ passing coordinator and defensive backs coach Kris Richard covets. Richard had a similar-sized safety in Kam Chancellor (6-3, 225) during his time with the Seattle Seahawks. Chancellor would go on to earn four Pro Bowl bids and win a Super Bowl.
But the depth chart at safety could expand this summer. Speculation is the Cowboys may decide to add former Kansas City Chiefs star and current free agent Eric Berry to the mix. Here’s what Around the NFL Writer Jeremy Bergman wrote on the league’s official website about the building battle at safety in Dallas.
” … at strong safety, longtime Cowboy Jeff Heath and free-agent acquisition George Iloka are vying for starting snaps. Heath has been with Dallas for the entirety of his career and started 33 total games over the last two seasons, but Iloka could provide different plusses than Heath, like tackling. The Cowboys vet missed 19 tackles in 2018, per Pro Football Focus, the second-most among all safeties. And then there’s the specter of a safety who isn’t even on the roster: free-agent veteran Eric Berry.”
The Cowboys have a very crowded wide receiver room at the moment, filled with players trying to grab a roster spot behind the three starters. Reggie Davis, the third year player out of Georgia, is looking to be one of those players, and his next-level speed could help him do just that.
The Cowboys seem rather solidified at the top of the receiver depth chart, but after the top three slots with Cooper, Gallup and Cobb, it can get interesting. While Hurns and Austin should have a good chance of making it, there will likely be a spot or two for a wild card. Davis showed flashes of being in the mix with his play in the OTAs and minicamp.
What Davis brings is top-end speed that few others on the team possess. If Davis can consistently be a legitimate deep-threat receiver who can make enough plays at camp and the preseason games, he could force the Cowboys to keep him around again.
The Cowboys have their three starters at wide receiver solidified, but everything after that is a big question mark. The writers at the Cowboys’ official team site each give their take on how they think the wide open receiver competition might play out.
Nick Eatman: Oddly enough, I think the wide receiver position starts at the running back spot. If you can tell me what kind of role Tony Pollard is going to have on this team, then I think I can start to answer the receiver position. I say that because of Tavon Austin. To me, the Cowboys drafted Pollard to do the things they hoped Austin would provide last year. If Pollard is the slot receiver/jet sweep runner/screen pass/occasional deep ball player they are counting on, then I don’t know if Austin will have a spot.
And then that opens the door for other receivers, particularly the speedy ones such as Reggie Davis, Devin Smith and perhaps Jon’Vea Johnson. I think one of those three guys finds a way to make the team if Austin doesn’t. I also link both Noah Brown and Jalen Guyton in a similar role, with only one of them likely making it. Obviously, lots can change between now and the start of the season, but if I had to make a prediction now … give me Cooper, Cobb, Gallup, Hurns, Brown and Johnson, with Davis or Smith on the practice squad.