After being one of the most dominate positional groups in the NFL for years, it appears the Dallas Cowboys offensive line could take a step back in 2017.
We’ve all heard the phrase: “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link”. The same literal wisdom could be applied when talking about the Dallas Cowboys offensive line this season.
Despite featuring three perennial Pro Bowlers in left tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick and right guard Zack Martin, it’s the play of the other two positions that could sink what has been the most feared positional groups in the NFL for several seasons.
Third-year lineman La’el Collins, who is coming off a season-ending toe injury, is expected to make the move from guard to right tackle, replacing Free. Many view this shift to actually be an upgrade. But so far, Collins continues to struggle with consistency as he tries to make the transition to a position he hasn’t played since his time at LSU.
"“Collins has been having problems with his hand placement and Monday was no different,” wrote football analyst Bryan Broaddus on the team’s official website. “There just doesn’t appear to be any real consistency with Collins and his hands. Some practices he holds them high and then the next, they’re low around his thigh pads, which takes him time to get them into position. He just doesn’t look comfortable right now and it affects the way he blocks.”"
Collins has the rest of training camp and four preseason games to get it right. At least the Cowboys have set him at the right tackle position and will allow him to remain there to focus on improving. The same can not be said for left guard.
The battle for the starting left guard position in Dallas initially appeared to be between two men: former third round draft pick Chaz Green and first round bust Jonathan Cooper. But a shoulder injury, one of many injuries that have plagued him his entire career, appears to have dropped Green from the running as he’s now considered week-to-week.
And according to Broaddus, Cowboys fans might see Byron Bell starting at left guard this Saturday against the L.A. Rams as Dallas’ coaching staff is still unsure who will play the position come Week One. That should tell you what you need to know about Cooper’s play the past few weeks.
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Playing next to three All-Pros, many have cast off any worries about the play of the Dallas Cowboys offensive line this season. They figure some combination of Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Travis Frederick will “pick up the slack” for the inconsistent play of the other two starters.
But the truth is, savvy defensive coordinators will attack those weak links. And at some point, these non-Pro Bowlers will be asked to hold their own. With La’el Collins struggling at his new position and no one inked on the depth chart at the other yet, I think the offensive line concerns in Dallas are valid and certainly worth watching closely in the coming weeks.