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The Cowboys potential plan to rotate Josh Ball and Jason Peters could make for a messy experience

With Terence Steele out for the season, things could get a little hairy.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Just when the Dallas Cowboys are about to get their All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith back, they suffer a huge loss with the season-ending ACL injury to right tackle Terence Steele. The third-year UDFA from 2020 was having his best season as a pro. His improvement in pass protection was good to see, and he’s emerged as one of the better run-blocking tackles in the league. He and Zack Martin created a bulldozing force along the right side of the offensive line. Steele has played so well that any complaints of being without former Cowboys right tackle La’el Collins are long gone.

But just as the season is about to get into the nitty gritty, the team will now have to truck through without him. Last week, the Cowboys called upon their fourth-round pick from a year ago, Josh Ball, to come in and replace Steele. Ball was injured last season and never played a down, and prior to the Texans’ game, he had only played sparingly in garbage time (he played eight snaps against the Vikings and three snaps against the Colts). On Sunday, he logged 26 total snaps but was replaced by Jason Peters late in the game after allowing the Texans’ edge rusher Ogbonnia Okoronkwo to work him over good on two consecutive plays. The first bad play resulted in a Dak Prescott fumble that Ball was able to fall on, but the second bad play caused Prescott’s arm to be hit, resulting in an interception near the goal line.

The veteran Peters replaced him on the very next possession and held up well enough to allow Prescott to orchestrate the game-winning drive. Based on how things played out at the end of the Texans game, it would seem rather obvious that the team would roll with Peters at right tackle from this point forward, but that may not be exactly how things are going down.

Let’s think about this for a minute. Jason Peters has been on this team for three months now, mostly getting spot reps at left tackle and left guard as the team tinkers with different arrangements. At no point did they feel compelled to test him out at right tackle? There had to be a conversation about who would play RT if Steele got hurt, right? Apparently, the answer to that question has been Josh Ball, who has been getting the backup reps at the position. While he struggled in training camp and preseason action, maybe he’s showing some improvement behind closed doors? And to be fair to Ball, of his 26 snaps on Sunday, not all of them were atrocious like the last two. In fact, looking at the tape, he played pretty solid in most of them, especially as a run blocker.

I was critical of the Cowboys coaching staff going with Ball as the first choice to replace Steele with a healthy Peters on the roster, but the coaching staff clearly has a better vantage point as to what is best for this team. And apparently, they aren’t fully convinced one way or another as to what that solution is as they plan to give reps to both the veteran and the youngster on Sunday. While we have to applaud the Cowboys for exploring all options and looking for the overall best result, the path to getting there could get a little messy. Ball will have some bad reps on Sunday, and in all likelihood, so will Peters. It’s very possible that neither will be the answer for a team that needs maximum protection against teams in the playoffs that feature premier edge rushers coming after Dak.

Another element to this is where is the best place for Tyler Smith? With Tyron Smith back at left tackle, the obvious answer is to slide Tyler to left guard. That was going to be the plan before Steele’s injury, but would the coaching staff entertain moving him to the right side and keeping Connor McGovern at left guard? The rookie Smith has exceeded our expectations and played pretty well at both offensive line positions so far, so who is to say he wouldn’t be able to hold down the right tackle spot? The Cowboys want their best offensive linemen on the field and it’s possible that neither Peters nor Ball falls into that scenario.

It will be interesting to see how all of this unfolds. The Cowboys seem committed to trying different things as they look for the best solution. The loss of Steele certainly hurts, but there is some good talent on this offensive line, and the Cowboys just have to figure out which arrangement will produce the best results.

Which five-man OL arrangement would you like to see the Cowboys go with?

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