Unfortunately, injuries are a part of the NFL game, especially 14 weeks into the season. To be 10-3 like the Cowboys is an accomplishment knowing how bad the injury bug has affected this franchise. Before the season even started, future Hall of Fame left tackle Tyron Smith went down with a major knee injury. While dealing with the massive loss of one of the franchise’s best players in Smith, the franchise quarterback Dak Prescott got injured in the first contest of the season. Prescott, would be out for the next five games. While he was out recovering from his thumb injury, Jayron Kearse and Connor McGovern both missed Weeks 2 and 3. With four starters out, the Cowboys managed to keep the train moving and kept increasing their win totals. By the time Dak Prescott returned in Week 7, the Cowboys maintained a 4-2 mark which is very solid.
Starting in Week 7, Dallas was getting healthier. Then Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown were gone for the season. Now, starting right tackle Terence Steele tore both his ACL and MCL which has ended his 2022 season. Steele has been a revelation since the club added him onto the roster as an undrafted free agent in 2020. As each game was in the rear view, Steele seemed to be getting better and better. As a player who is also only 25, his best games are still ahead of him. Ligament tears are obviously not ideal, but thanks to modern technology he should be back to himself sometime next year. As the Cowboys to try figure out how they are going to manage Steele’s injury, let’s take a deeper dive into the matter at hand.
Seven players that are expected to be on the active roster going forward
Let’s first go over who is currently on the roster along the offensive line. Currently the Cowboys have three tackles on the active roster: Tyler Smith, Jason Peters, and Josh Ball. You can now add Tyron Smith into the mix as he is currently on injured reserve, but is expected back for this week’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. At the guard position, Dallas has Zack Martin and Connor McGovern. Last but not least, the Cowboys have Tyler Biadasz at center. With a total of seven offensive lineman expected to be active on Sunday, it is a good thing that the line possesses positional flexibility.
Positional flexibility should help piece together the starting offensive line unit
Of the seven players expected to be available this weekend, only Tyler Biadasz hasn’t played out of his normal starting position of center. Tyron Smith has been a stalwart at left tackle for many years now, but do not forget that in his rookie year he started all 16 games at right tackle as Doug Free started all 16 games at left tackle during the 2011 campaign. Speaking of reliable left tackles, Jason Peters also comes to mind. He started his NFL career at right tackle before sliding over to the left in 2006 and never looked back. As we’ve seen in 2022, Peters, who is now 40 years old, still has the goods and played at tackle and at guard for the Cowboys. Rookie first-rounder Tyler Smith was expected to be the starting left guard and then eventually transition to left tackle whenever Tyron Smith retired. With Tyron Smith’s injury, Tyler Smith was kicked outside and has done a stand up job. Tyler Smith has plenty of ability to be a quality tackle or guard in the league. 2021 fourth-round pick Josh Ball hasn’t seen much action since entering the league but has played both left and right tackle. In limited action, Ball has struggled and still needs some seasoning before being on the field in crucial moments. If there was a pecking order, he should be at the bottom currently.
At guard, Zack Martin, since entering the league as the Cowboys first-rounder in 2014, has consistently been one of the best guards in the NFL. Even in a pinch, we’ve seen Martin kick out to tackle and do a solid job. He is very capable of doing it again if needed. Last, but certainly not least, we have guard Connor McGovern. McGovern, since entering the league as a third-rounder of the Cowboys, has played in 41 games to date. He’s been up and down as a player, but has done an okay job when inserted into the lineup. He possesses positional flexibility as he can play both guard positions. McGovern, is a quality backup offensive lineman that can be an okay starter when needed which is what he has done his entire career in the league.
Ideally, there really are only two quality options to piece together the starting five
Knowing where things currently stand among the seven expected active offensive lineman on gameday, the positional flexibility gives Dallas plenty of options as to who starts and who doesn’t. Ideally, the starting five should look like Tyron Smith, Tyler Smith, Tyler Biadasz, Zack Martin, and Jason Peters. The second possible lineup could also look like this: Tyron Smith, Tyler Smith, Tyler Biadasz, Connor McGovern, and Zack Martin. This option isn’t ideal given that Martin is among the best at right guard in the league, and because Martin has stated his preference for guard over tackle. There are other potential options out there that you could mix and match, like the one that might be tested first and that is trying Tyron Smith at right tackle and leaving Tyler Smith at left tackle.
Any of these options are among the better ones because Josh Ball was left out. He just isn’t ready to play in high pressure situations in the NFL. Using Ball or McGovern as the sixth offensive lineman, or even as a fullback, would ideally be the packages the Cowboys would use.
How the Cowboys handle the offensive line situation going forward will ultimately be a huge factor in how far this team can go in 2022. It is a delicate situation that hopefully the organization handles properly.