If you have been paying attention this offseason then you are likely aware of how highly-touted the Dallas Cowboys offense is across the national spectrum. To be fair here, we are talking about an offense that was highly efficient last year. That group may have lost its head coach in Jason Garrett, but they retained offensive coordinator Kellen Moore under new main man Mike McCarthy and, oh yea, they drafted CeeDee Lamb.
While things are still pending on the contractual side with Dak Prescott, the expectation is that he is going to be leading one of the league’s top flight offenses in 2020. This is true from a skill position standpoint, but obviously the Cowboys offensive line is among the best in the entire NFL.
PFF graded the Cowboys tackles as the second-best pair in the league
The Cowboys will, without question, be of lesser quality in the middle of the offensive line as Travis Frederick retired this offseason. They obviously played without him just two years ago while he fought Guillain-Barré syndrome, but losing him is still tough.
As things currently stand, the best overall lineman on the team is without question Zack Martin. Tyron Smith has always been incredible, and over the last year La’el Collins really ascended to the next level. Where do Collins and Smith rank as one pair considering they are the team’s two offensive tackles?
We have all known just how valuable Tyron Smith is for a long time now, but as mentioned we really learned that lesson regarding La’el Collins throughout 2019. As far as what they bring as a tandem together, the Cowboys saw just how important they were when they operated an entire game, a losing effort, without them both against the New York Jets last season.
PFF did a ranking of the top tackle tandems in the NFL and, shocker here, the Dallas Cowboys are near the top. Smith and Collins came in second, trailing only Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk of the New Orleans Saints.
Injuries have slowed Smith from the breakneck pace he was setting from 2013 to 2016, putting up overall PFF grades of 85.0 or higher in each season and trailing only Joe Thomas in overall grade over that four-year stretch (94.1). Make no mistake about it, though — Smith still stands as one of the better left tackles in the NFL. Since 2017, Smith has earned a top-10 overall grade at the left tackle position among qualifiers and has allowed just four sacks on 1,385 pass-blocking snaps. That mark of 346 pass-blocking snaps per sack allowed sits behind only Trent Williams among left tackles with 500 or more pass-blocking snaps. Taking his injuries into account, that’s not too shabby.
On the other side, Collins’ 2019 campaign qualified as a breakthrough in his career. Prior to this past season, Collins had reached a career-high PFF grade of 72.5 in 2018, but that number jumped all the way up to 86.0 in 2019 — ranking fourth in the entire NFL behind Ramczyk, Lane Johnson and Ronnie Stanley. Though he did improve as a pass protector this past season, raising his pass-blocking grade to a career-high mark of 75.2, it was really in the run game where Collins had the most impact (88.6 run-blocking grade in 2019). On tape, you see more of Collins’ defenders on the turf than most offensive linemen, and he does a good job of working up to the second level. It may have taken a few years, but Collins’ talent is starting to result in high-level play at right tackle.
2019 was a coming out party for Collins, and while he is still better than most there is no denying that Tyron Smith is not at the peak of his career (which speaks to how insane his peak was).
When it comes to individual PFF ranks for last season these rankings of pairs make sense. Ramczyk came in as the top overall offensive tackle, Collins was fifth, Armstead slotted in at ninth, and Smith finished 16th. Having two of the top 16 tackles in the NFL is a luxury, there is no debate there.
With Travis Frederick retiring the Cowboys are going to have to lean on veteran presence outside even more than normal. Zack Martin will obviously carry things along his side of the interior, but people have been shaky about Connor Williams at left guard for the last two years. With a question mark in the middle that part of things needs to get settled sooner rather than later.