The Dallas Cowboys have a lot of questions along the offensive line. In a perfect world, Tyron Smith would never miss time, Zack Martin would figure out his contract situation, and the team would finally get a little good luck in the health department. But as we’ve seen, the world is far from perfect.
The team will enter the year with a fearsome five-some that includes the before-mentioned veteran All-Pros as well as promising young stars in Terence Steele, Tyler Smith, and Tyler Biadasz. However,
if when one of their starters gets hurt, then what? Who’s the next man up? Are there any promising candidates who could step and and provide some answers?
That is what we are hoping to find out in August as we get a good look at the reserves starting with Saturday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Looking at the tape closely provided a better sense of what each of them had to offer. And to be quite honest, it doesn’t really matter if it’s a tackle or a guard who steps up because the flexibility of Tyler Smith will allow them to maneuver accordingly to get the best five on the field. So, how did these guys look in their first preseason action?
We haven’t heard much from the rookie as he has been pushed down the depth chart with the addition of free agent veteran Chuma Edoga, but a leg injury last week suddenly opened the door for Richards to get some extra chances. And that chance included taking on the starting left tackle spot against the Jags' first-team defense.
Richards had a nice NFL debut. He was quick off the snap and did a great job positioning himself against his defender. He showed patience by never overcommitting one way or another and nifty footwork to always protect the outside and drive his man past the quarterback. Even if the pass rusher got a step on him, Richards used his length and kept the defender from cornering enough to get a shot at his quarterback.
In the run game, Richards did a good job setting himself, anchoring, and latched on well enough to keep the defender from moving past him.
Solid rookie performance by tackle Asim Richards.— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) August 13, 2023
He got off the snap well, showed patience, yet demonstrated quick footwork, and used his length extremely well to always drive the defender to the outside. Even when Will Grier ran into that sack, Richards did his job. pic.twitter.com/fXoXmfH9WZ
Richards put plenty of good reps on tape. There was one rep where the defender juked him enough to put him off balance and he and Matt Farniok failed to pick up a stunt on another occasion, but overall, it was a solid debut by the rookie.
What about the other guys? Here are our game notes from the other four reserve linemen fighting for a role on this team.
The third-year tackle-converted-guard was the best interior blocker the team had on Saturday and by a pretty considerable margin. Ball is a strong player who uses his length and anchor to handle most one-on-one situations. Most of the double teaming from center Brock Hoffman was used to assist left guard Matt Farniok as Ball was left alone quite a bit. It didn’t matter though. He didn’t need help as he held firm and you never saw him getting bullied. He did a good job setting and twisting his body to square off the defender against the direction he needed to go. He moves surprisingly well for a big guy, but he did have a couple of moments where he stumbled a bit getting to the second level.
Both Richards and Ball played well and could offer a potential swing tackle/reserve guard spot should one of their linemen go down. After that, it gets a little dicey.
The second-year tackle missed out last year as he dealt with a shoulder injury, but he was back in action on Saturday. Waletzko is a big guy who did a good job setting a wide base and having his hands ready. The issue with him is that his movement was a little clunky. Defenders were able to get into his chest and when that happened he was rather easy to shed. To his credit, he kept fighting and used his length to try and recover and redirect the path to the quarterback.
The team’s most experienced backup lineman has always been full of energy, but limited in overall effectiveness. Nothing really changed on Saturday. Farnoik spent the entire night off balance as was constantly scrambling to hold blocks. There were many instances where the defenders were able to just toss him aside and have a clear path to the quarterback. When he was engaged, he was usually getting overpowered and shoved directly into the quarterback’s face. Farniok struggled to win the hand battle and it’s a continuous battle to hold his block. Give the guy credit though, he was a relentless fighter and he made defenders have to work for it.
Hoffman delivered a mixed bag. He showed some strength at times when he was engaged with his man, but other times he gave way a bit. Similar to Farniok, Hoffman ran around a little off-balanced, but he continued to work. He typically was part of a double team and that usually meant helping Farniok. Hoffman moved pretty well in the open field, but often times he was still out of position to secure a block. Both he and Farniok have center-flex and appear close in overall ability. Hoffman came out looking a little better in this one, but that could be attributed to having fewer one-on-one situations than he teammate to his left.