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Why the Cowboys should strongly consider drafting an offensive tackle in the first two rounds

The Cowboys should continue their trend of investing in their offensive line.

Iowa v Northwestern Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

52.3. That was the quarterback rating of the best signal-caller in the world last Sunday. Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who received a 10-year, $450 million extension last July, was unable to score a single touchdown in his biggest game of the season.

Mahomes is widely regarded as the best quarterback in the league. Some even think he has a shot to be one of the best of all time. His stats certainly back that belief up, but against Tampa Bay last Sunday, Mahomes wasn’t able to get anything done.

Now, of course, there’s a reason for this. It’s the pure ineptitude of the Kansas City offensive line. The Chiefs’ offensive line allowed 37 quarterback pressures on Sunday, according to Pro Football Focus. Yes, you read that right, 37 pressures. That number blew away the competition for most allowed by a single team this postseason. In fact, Kansas City had allowed a total of just 19 QB pressures in their previous two playoff games. For comparison, in last year’s Super Bowl victory, Kansas City allowed 20.

The Chiefs clearly missed Pro Bowl tackle Eric Fisher, the best member of their offensive line. Pro Football Focus gave Fisher an 80.1 offensive grade for the 2020 season, more than 10 points higher than any other offensive linemen on the team.

In Sunday’s game, three of Kansas City’s starting linemen had a PFF pass-block grade below 47. To put that in perspective, Cowboys’ tackle Terence Steele had a 49.1 pass-block grade for the 2020 season.

Despite being sacked just three times, the poor play from the line had Mahomes running for his life all night. According to Net Gen Stats, Mahomes traveled 497 yards before throwing the ball, the most scramble yards in a game by any quarterback in the NGS era.

The star signal-caller also was under pressure on 55% of his dropbacks, was unable to complete a 20 or more yard throw, and was under pressure in 2.5 seconds or less on 43% of their offensive plays.

So what does this have to do with the Cowboys? Well, just like it was for Kansas City on Sunday, protecting the quarterback was a struggle in Dallas this past season. The Cowboys had two tackles, Terence Steele (48) and Brandon Knight (37), both finish in the top 12 in pressures allowed on the season. Knight’s 37 came despite playing in just 11 games.

In all likelihood the Cowboys will have their two preferred starting tackles, Tyron Smith and La’el Collins, back next season, but that should not stop them from strongly considering an offensive tackle with the 10th pick or 44th pick.

As good as he has been, the Cowboys cannot rely on Smith at this point of his career. The former All-Pro has not played in all 16 games since the 2015 season. In the last two seasons, Smith has missed a total of 17 games, in which Dallas has a 7-10 record. The Cowboys should be able to have more faith in the 27-year-old Collins, but he is coming off an injury that forced him to miss the entire season.

Most importantly, quarterback Dak Prescott is coming off a season-ending injury. Protecting their signal-caller should be the Cowboys’ number one priority. If Smith or Collins goes down, can they really trust the combo of Steele and Knight to protect their best player? The results from last season show they cannot.

The Cowboys likely won’t have the money to invest in a quality backup tackle this offseason, making it extremely vital they select one in the draft. Penei Sewell, Rashawn Slater, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Christian Darrisaw, and Sam Cosmi are just some of the players Dallas will likely have a chance to select early on in the draft.

Last weekend we saw what happened to the best quarterback in the league when his line can’t hold up. The Cowboys need to learn from this, and think long and hard about selecting a tackle with one of their first two picks come April.