What will the Dallas Cowboys do at left guard in 2018?
Although the Dallas Cowboys have one of the most dominate offensive lines in the NFL, there is a weak link. So what will the Cowboys do at left guard in 2018?
Last offseason, one of the Dallas Cowboys biggest question marks was about their starting left guard position. A year later, and those questions still remain. So how will Dallas address their latest needs at this critical position?
Two years ago, the Cowboys left guard position was likely the most secure in all of football. Not only did they have a likely 2015 first rounder in La’el Collins manning the position, but his talented backup was former starter Ronald Leary. Last offseason, the Cowboys shifted Collins to right tackle to replace the retired Doug Free and Leary left Dallas to join the Denver Broncos in free agency.
Suddenly, there was a major void along the Cowboys offensive line between Pro Bowlers Tyron Smith (left tackle) and Travis Frederick (center). Dallas had three candidates in mind to fill that position. They were Chaz Green, a former third round selection, Byron Bell, an experienced veteran, and Jonathan Cooper, a former first round pick.
Green, Bell and Cooper battled for the position during the offseason, training camp and through the preseason. It wasn’t until early into the regular season the Cowboys went with Cooper as the permanent starter at left guard. And after a shaky start, the seventh overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals, appeared to settle in to his new role.
Cooper did end the season on a sour note though, spraining his MCL in Week 17. But it is believed he’ll be ready in time for OTAs.
Although Cooper still struggled at times last season, especially when not bookended by Tyron Smith due to injury, he likely did enough to earn himself a job in 2018. But it’s unknown if that gig will be in Dallas or not as the veteran guard is currently a free agent. And Cooper may want to test the open market.
"” … Cooper was solid and got better with more playing time. I’m sure money will factor into whether he’s back,” responded Rob Phillips to a mailbag question on the team’s official website. “But keep in mind that the Cowboys have hired a new coach to oversee the offensive line. Paul Alexander has been in the league a long time and should bring a different perspective to the evaluation of the line.”"
This leaves the Cowboys in a very familiar position heading into the 2018 regular season. Who will start for them at left guard when the season kicks off? Both Cooper and Bell are free agents. Green’s lengthy injury history makes him far too unreliable to be anything more than the occasional fill-in, although he has one year left on his rookie contract. It appears as if Dallas might need to find themselves a new starter … again.
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My gut says the Dallas Cowboys will re-sign either Jonathan Cooper or Byron Bell … or both, this offseason. But I also fully expect them to try and find another low cost veteran in free agency as well as possibly investing a high draft selection in the position in order to develop a possible starter at left guard for the near future.