Dallas Cowboys: Will the offensive line improve in 2018?
By Tim Kohut
The offensive line is undoubtedly one of the Dallas Cowboys’ greatest strengths. But can this talented group get even better in 2018?
While the offensive line remains the backbone of the Dallas Cowboys‘ balanced offensive attack, this group’s play saw a dropoff in production during the 2017 season.
For starters, when their best lineman, and arguably best player, left tackle Tyron Smith was out of the lineup with a back injury, one of the unit’s biggest issues were exposed– depth.
The Cowboys had no contingency plan for the loss of Smith, and his former backup, Chaz Green, might not ever mentally recover from Week 10 when his poor play made Atlanta Falcons’ defensive end Adrian Clayborn look like Hall of Fame pass rusher Reggie White.
Reserve Byron Bell was better, but definitely not someone you’d want as your swing tackle going into the season. The Cowboys will have to address the backup tackle spot for 2018.
Additionally, left guard remains a question mark. Jonathan Cooper had a solid season once he overtook the aforementioned Green at the starting spot, but it remains to be seen if the current free agent will even re-signed with the Cowboys. Cooper managed to avoid a major injury in Dallas’ Week 17 finale against Philadelphia, but injury concerns have played a role in the former first round pick’s up and down NFL career.
However, one of the biggest question marks regarding this positional group is the degree of impact new offensive line coach Paul Alexander will have on the vaunted unit. Alexander has long been a highly regarded name amongst O-Line coaches, boasting a top ten pass blocking unit nine times with the Cincinnati Bengals, as opposed to just three seasons finishing in the top-10 for most sacked allowed.
But Alexander does bring a different philosophy to the Cowboys offensive line. Dallas has been running a zone blocking scheme since 2012, when Bill Callahan was coaching the lineman. Alexander, on the other hand, runs more of a traditional power blocking scheme, which requires Dallas’ lineman to get into more one on one, assignment-based blocking scenarios, rather than blocking a specific zone.
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But with three All-Pro offensive linemen and a physically dominant right tackle in La’el Collins, Alexander’s blocking scheme should be a good fit for the Dallas Cowboys’ linemen regardless, and make them an even more formidable unit going forward.