With four weeks in the rearview mirror of the 2022 NFL season, and a 3-1 record heading into a Week 5 matchup with the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Los Angeles Rams, things in Dallas have looked much better regardless of the early hand they were dealt. Although the Rams are 2-2, and recently were soundly defeated by the San Francisco 49ers, this team is still the defending champs. They are still a quality opponent, and such a quality opponent that many pundits have pointed to them as a potential stumbling block on the road as Dallas waits for franchise quarterback Dak Prescott to get into the mix.
There are varying reasons as to why there is some concern in week five, and whether or not the Cooper Rush-led Cowboys can leave Los Angeles with another win. That would give them a 4-1 record heading into another important divisional matchup against a currently 4-0 Philadelphia Eagles squad. Today, though, we will focus on this week’s hot topic - the offensive line. They head into a matchup featuring future Hall of Fame defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
Cooper Rush needs to be given credit for protecting the weaknesses along the offensive line
Looking at the box scores can sometimes be misleading, and lead some to believe that the offensive line has done well by only giving up four sacks since Cooper Rush took over for the injured Dak Prescott in week one. However, when taking a deep dive into the film and advanced statistics, you can see that the offensive line still struggles at times.
Among all of the other starting quarterbacks through four weeks, Cooper Rush is tied with Tom Brady in a very intriguing stat. The stat is the speed with which Rush gets the ball out of his hands post snap. Both Brady and Rush clocked in at only 2.1 seconds from snap to throw, which is very fast and shows you how quick the read and react part of his game looks. With such a short time frame to get the ball and make a decision, you have to be very quick in your decision making, and thus far, Cooper Rush has been up to the task in that regard by not throwing an interception in 2022. Due to Rush being able to get the ball out to his weapons quickly, it removes a lot of the pressure off the offensive line and that is a big reason why Rush has only been sacked four times. Kudos to Cooper Rush for distributing the ball like he has, or those sack numbers would be much higher than what they are.
The talented running back duo in Dallas has made the offensive line look much better than how they really are at the moment
Moving over to the run game, and aside from week four, it has been serviceable enough for both Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. They have combine for just over four yards a carry through the first four games. The real credit for even gaining that much on average per carry does need to go to Elliott and Pollard simply because both players are talented enough to make a no-gainer or a potential loss of yardage, into a four yard carry. The lack of holes created by the offensive line were on full display against a stout Washington Commanders defensive line where both Zeke and Pollard were held to just 55 yards combined on the ground.
Enough with the musical chairs, the offensive line needs continuity
Injuries are a part of the game of football, and unfortunately it has really affected the Cowboys offensive line unit. The Cowboys depth along the line has been tested a lot thus far in 2022, so much so that the team signed future Hall of Famer Jason Peters to help shore things up. Many had thought due to the injury bug that took out Tyron Smith for the foreseeable future, and Connor McGovern for a brief time, that Peters would just slide on in at left tackle and all would be fixed. To date, this has not happened and it doesn’t appear like it will happen for the time being.
The positive part of this equation is that first-round rookie, Tyler Smith, has done well enough at left tackle to push Peters inside to left guard. That is fine and all, but the ongoing issue here is, Jason Peters has yet to have started a game since signing with the Cowboys. Regardless of McGovern or Matt Farniok, there is no doubt that Peters is the best option and needs to start at left guard as soon as possible. Peters snap count is on the rise slightly, but this musical chairs approach to left guard needs to end, and Peters needs to be in full time as continuity along the offensive line is paramount for a team’s overall success.
Although the Cowboys are 3-1 through four weeks, the offensive line issues will be a key as the season gets deeper and deeper. Players like Cooper Rush, Ezekiel Elliott, and Tony Pollard have all been instrumental in helping protect the offensive line weaknesses for the most part thus far. It’s going to take more solid play from those three along with the rest of the playmakers until the musical chairs along the offensive line have concluded and the continuity is starting to gel. Until then, things could get bumpy, especially when Aaron Donald will be facing this unit come Sunday.