With the final pick of their 2021 draft class, the Cowboys took offensive lineman Matt Farniok from Nebraska. Very little was known about him, and to a degree that mystery remains today. As a seventh-round pick and playing a position where the Cowboys already had presumptive starters in place for 2021, Farniok was considered a bit of an afterthought at the start of the season by most fans.
While Farniok didn’t necessarily do much to change that heading into 2022, that didn’t stop Strephen Jones from touting Farniok’s viability shortly after this year’s draft concluded.
Stephen said Farniok is playing center & is “gonna push.” Doesn’t seem like Biadasz is very secure. Also didn’t hear McGovern mentioned these couple days when referencing the line & the depth— Zach Wolchuk (@ZachWolchuk) April 30, 2022
So what kind of push is Farniok going to make, and what are some reasonable expectations for him entering 2022?
What He’s Done
Farniok’s role in 2021 was very narrow, although it certainly wasn’t nonexistent. He played in each of the first six games of the year and saw the field in a total of 12 of the Cowboys’ 17 games. He almost exclusively played on special teams, blocking on all kick attempts when he was active.
Farniok saw the field on offense in three games last year, all of them coming in blowout wins towards the end of the game. These appearances came against the Falcons, the day-after-Christmas drubbing of the Washington Football Team, and the season-finale against the Eagles.
Nice job by Matt Farniok to essentially block 2 Eagles at the 2nd level before JaQuan Hardy hits a nice jump cut to elude one defender and run in the end zone for the TD. #Cowboys pic.twitter.com/lZJ4oiqDyu— John Owning (@JohnOwning) January 10, 2022
Farniok got some experience at both guard and center in these games, and his performance against the Eagles - the game in which he played his most offensive snaps of the year - was highlighted by some for impressive reps, especially in run blocking. It’s no wonder that Farniok’s limited sizzle reel prompted Jones to comment on Farniok’s “push” in 2022.
What He Can Do
As of right now, Tyler Biadasz is expected to hold down the starting center job, and there’s not much reason to think that will actually change. Biadasz struggled early on in 2021, so much to the point that the Cowboys had to spend time on drills for snapping the ball properly, but Biadasz improved as the year went along. He had a stretch of seven games without allowing a single pressure and finished the year tied for second among all centers in run block win rate.
Still, Biadasz needs to prove to the staff that his improvements can be built upon, hence the very narrow window of opportunity for Farniok here. It looks like Dallas wants Farniok to focus just on the center position, though it helps knowing he has experience playing guard as well.
** Lots of three safety look with Wilson, Jayron Kearse and Malik Hooker.— Todd Archer (@toddarcher) July 27, 2022
** Looked like Leighton Vander Esch was taking the defensive calls from the coaches.
** Deeper down the OL depth chart: Matthew Farniok and Braylon Jones split second-team center snaps.
Early on in training camp, it appears that Farniok is competing with Braylon Jones for the backup center role, an intriguing development considering Jones’ comments earlier in the year. The caveat here is that it is still very early in training camp, and pads haven’t even come on yet, which makes it that much harder to evaluate offensive line play.
That said, the glimpses Farniok flashed last year in limited time offer genuine promise as a valuable depth piece. Even if Farniok continues to have a role blocking for kicks, his reliability there is meaningful. And with Biadasz still needing firmly entrench himself as the unquestioned starter in the middle of this line, Farniok can only help himself by showing more of those glimpses he gave us against Philly. It wouldn’t be unrealistic to see Farniok emerge as the Cowboys’ top interior depth piece this year, but it’s already clear he’ll have to earn that recognition first.