You remember last season when both Tyron Smith and La’el Collins missed time forcing the team to rely on two backups to hold down the edges and protect Dak Prescott? Such a predicament brought back Chaz Green/Byron Bell flashbacks when the Atlanta Falcons teed off on Dak for a total of eight sacks, six of which belonged to Adrian Clayborn. Surprisingly, veteran Cameron Fleming and undrafted free agent Brandon Knight held down the fort well, allowing Prescott plenty of time in the pocket to operate. In fact, the rookie Knight actually performed better than Fleming, and it was at that moment we knew that the Cowboys would not be picking up Fleming’s 2020 option.
Even though he only saw real action in two games filling in for LC, Knight was one of last year’s pleasant surprises. That is why it comes as a little bit of a shock that the team is investing so much in recently acquired Cameron Erving. Last week, the team signed the former first-round pick to a one-year deal that is worth $2.5 million. That’s not too bad; however, $2 million of that is guaranteed. As my colleague RJ Ochoa pointed out - handing out that much guaranteed money paints quite the impressionable picture that his spot on the team is secure. That’s not the kind of dead money you want to eat just for a tryout.
To be fair, nobody is expecting Erving to be anything close to the player that warranted a first-round draft pick back in 2015. After not working out in Cleveland, the Browns traded him to the Kansas City Chiefs for a fifth-round draft pick. Over the past three seasons, he has started 25 games for KC, playing both inside and outside. Perhaps Erving’s position flex adds to his appeal, but is he really the team’s best option for swing tackle? The Super Bowl champs didn’t think so as they didn’t pick up his 2020 option, so off to free agency he went. And some Kansas City fans aren’t going to be missing him.
Don’t know how Patrick Mahomes is still alive after the stretch where Cameron Erving was his left tackle pic.twitter.com/PUZXVued3Q— Chase Snyder (@ChasingSnyder) January 17, 2020
It’s admirable to see the Cowboys keep plugging away at building the depth on this team. Erving’s a fine get to add to the mix of players fighting to make the 55-man roster. But penciling him in for one of the roster spots might be a little presumptuous. The team is loaded with depth inside as there are several good players worthy of reserve roles on this roster, so Erving’s best shot has to be as the swing tackle, right?
Not if Brandon Knight has anything to do with it. Knight impressed coaches so much that despite missing some time in training camp with an injury, he still did enough to earn a roster spot. While most were enamored by the upside of another UDFA, Mitch Hyatt, it was Knight that shined the most. When his number was called and he saw game-time action, he held serve just like you’d want your swing tackle to do.
Knight isn’t a tremendous athlete. He’s not impressively strong, doesn’t posses very much length to thwart off rushers, and he can be a little lazy by lunging at times. All these weaknesses are part of why the Indiana lineman went undrafted. But what he is, though, is a player who gets out of his stance quickly, shows happy feet to get to his spot, and possesses the intelligence to handle the intricacies of pass protection. The Dallas Morning News’ John Owning does an excellent job breaking things down if you want to look closely at Knight’s tape.
Brandon Knight's best blocks vs GB. pic.twitter.com/Qtlra7b9wM— All22Hype (@All22Hype) October 7, 2019
In a way, Knight reminds a little bit of a young Doug Free, and not just because they both wear their hair on the lower half of their face. A comparison to Doug E. Fresh may not inspire confidence, but let’s give the guy some some credit. Once the Cowboys figured out he wasn’t starting left tackle material, Free served as a reliable right tackle for many years. And if you can have that type of production from your swing tackle position, well - that’s some pretty sufficient depth you got there.
Erving may be the new guy with the draft pedigree and the bigger financial investment, but don’t be surprised if the youngster enters the year as the team’s new swing tackle.