The Dallas Cowboys have a good starting offensive line. If this group is able to stay healthy, it should mean good things for Dak Prescott and the Cowboys offense. Of course, staying healthy has not been in the cards in recent years as the team has faced ongoing challenges to find quality reserves when one or more of their starters go down. The most notable concern is left tackle Tyron Smith who has missed time in each of his last seven seasons.
With none of their starters seeing any action in the preseason, we’ve been provided with a good look at the team’s top reserves. These backups include:
- LT rookie Asim Richards
- LG rotation of Matt Farniok/Brock Hoffman
- C rotation of Matt Farniok/Brock Hoffman
- RG third-year converted tackle Josh Ball
- RT second-year tackle Matt Waletzko
The hope is the team can rely on one or more of these players to step up and fill the shoes should one of their starters go down. The flexibility of Tyler Smith allows the team to go with either a backup tackle or backup guard, depending on which of those players prove most valuable. So, which of these players have impressed the most thus far? Let’s examine.
Ball has been the team’s most consistent offensive lineman after two games. He continued to show up strong in the trenches. He was a hard guy to move and when strong pass rushers did get some push on him, they didn’t get very far. He kept his arms extended and in most instances was the one leading the dance. Ball played with a wide base and did a good job anchoring down. He did have some balance issues when he was on the move looking for contact but it wasn’t causing him any real issues.
Josh Ball does a great job setting a wide base and using his length to keep defenders at bay. He anchors down well and maintains leverage more times than not. His strength and ability to move piles make him a valuable interior OL reserve for the Cowboys. pic.twitter.com/pBbYXQswuz— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) August 20, 2023
The rookie continued to impress as he put another good showing on tape against the Seahawks. Richards did a very good job kicking out and getting into position. Against the Jaguars a week ago, he was often found re-directing traffic outside the pocket. On Saturday, edge rushers were getting a little more push on him driving him back in a more direct path to the quarterback. And there were some instances where he got beat inside on swim moves. In run blocking, he did a good job creating a seal whether on the outside or driving his man into the center pile.
I continue to be impressed with rookie tackle Asim Richards. I like his kick step and how he squares up quickly. He's been solid. He does need to clean up his hand fighting as defenders are still tossing him aside at times. pic.twitter.com/cGHNCFNYR8— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) August 20, 2023
The third-year interior lineman was one of the most inconsistent players on the line as he looked really good at times, but then dreadful at others. He moved well and there were instances when he latched on and secured his block. There were also other times when he was looking for someone to body up and arrived late offering very little help. Farniok also didn’t show good strength to handle bigger defensive tackles and was pushed back into the quarterback's lap. He looked more comfortable at the center position where he’s usually one of two blockers covering an assignment versus when he’s on an island playing left guard. As inconsistent as he can be, he’s still the team’s top choice to play center should something happen to Tyler Biadasz.
Matt Farniok provides a safe floor, but also a very uninspiring upside. He did better at center, but his run-blocking and pass-protection remain a night-and-day difference. pic.twitter.com/Id4e0XUn3A— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) August 20, 2023
It’s unfortunate that Waletzko suffered another shoulder injury and had to leave the game. If that guy didn’t have bad luck, he’d have no luck at all. The second-year tackle continued to show his rawness as he‘s still learning how to use that big body to fend off defenders. His footwork was sloppy and he never seemed to keep his balance when the edge rushers attacked his body. The most frustrating part is how his long arms seem completely wasted as he regularly allowed defenders to get into his chest and work through him. Waletzko doesn't look ready for the show and could use additional time to work on the fundamentals.
Matt Waletzko can't catch a break with those stupid shoulder injuries, but even at full strength, he's still having his share of struggles. His footwork is not very good, he's always lunging, and those 36 1/8 inch arms don't seem to be helping him as much as they should. pic.twitter.com/rFs6EDhZth— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) August 20, 2023
Hoffman moved from center to left guard against the Seahawks and it allowed us to get a better idea of some of his strengths and weaknesses. When he was able to get underneath the pads, he showed off a little bit of drive. He also did a good job working off the combo blocks when double-teaming with Farniok and then popping to the second level. His run blocking was okay, but he allowed defenders to get around him too easily at times. He didn’t move fast and when he didn’t get to the spot first, it was typically game over for Hoffman.
Brock Hoffman is a serviceable run blocker. He's good at executing combo blocks and moves surprisingly well in space. Pass-pro is a different story as his balance and hand combat are wildly erratic. pic.twitter.com/h1dWX00cBg— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) August 20, 2023
We can’t stop without discussing the UDFA out of Oregon. T. J. Bass might be a long shot to make the team, but he is making it a lot tougher on the coaching staff with the way he’s been playing. He’s still a work in progress, but against the Seahawks, Bass was an annoyance as he was constantly positioning himself well and putting up a good fight against those trying to go around him. Despite having arms that are four inches shorter than Waletzko, Bass did a great job using his hands to fight off defenders. There is something to work with here and he continues to be an intriguing development piece for the future, but will that future come sooner than expected?
With the Cowboys interior line struggles, T.J. Bass has entered the chat room. He's a pesky player who ungracefully manages to get in the way and does a great job using his arms to fend off defenders. I like the upside here and this guy's got shot. pic.twitter.com/qFQ5tWMsPo— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) August 20, 2023
After watching training camp and two preseason games, it’s really hard not to see Ball in the mix. He’s played well and the coaches continue to praise his performance. And now, with even more reps on tape, this is how the offensive line might look if a starter goes down.