Dallas Cowboys Camp: Offensive line erasing question marks

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 13: Tyron Smith No. 77 of the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on September 13, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 13: Tyron Smith No. 77 of the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on September 13, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys success relies heavily on a punishing, ball control offense. Naturally, the offensive line has taken center stage at camp.

Dallas Cowboys fans only need to recall the last two seasons to understand their team’s playoff fortunes live and die behind the potency of the offensive line.

The 2016 defense were no slouches, but 14th in yards allowed certainly didn’t make them an imposing force. However, paired with the league’s 2nd best offense at controlling the clock, they ranked 5th in points allowed on the way to 13 wins.

Fast forward to 2017. The NFL’s best left tackle had recurring back issues causing missed time. His replacements fell flat in relief. And the new starting left guard was a sizable drop-off from 2016. The results were four fewer wins and no playoffs.

As it stands, the investment to resurrect the dominating, ball control blueprint features an absurdity of riches. Three starters were first round draft picks. La’el Collins was a projected first rounder before a catastrophic draft day ordeal left him without a team. And the newest member is the team’s 2018 second round pick.

On paper, in regards to projected draft status, all five starters were rated among the 50 best players in their respective drafts. Dallas then brought in swing tackle Cameron Fleming to solidify the swing tackle with a veteran starter.


Even with things looking aces on paper, huge question marks linger. Is Tyron Smith healthy and will back issues hurt his play? Will rookie Connor Williams take time to adjust and be an early soft spot? Is Fleming a marked improvement over Chaz Green?

All are legitimate questions and needed a positive answer to fuel optimism for 2018. Well if the early results are any indication, Cowboys fans should be ecstatic.

If Smith’s back isn’t 100%, the opposing defensive ends might turn in their cleats if it got any better. Smith has been an impenetrable roadblock on the way to Dak Prescott. Starting end Tyrone Crawford has been so frustrated rushing him to no avail that Smith stayed after practice to offer pointers on how he might win against him.

Only time will tell if Smith’s back will experience any regression, but as of now the best left tackle in football is on top of his game.


Which leads to the biggest question mark in Connor Williams. Texas fans and scouts know the nasty, elite player he was in 2016. But how he would show early in camp after a down 2017 season was still a mystery.

Two examples of how well the rookie is doing came from comments heard on the Cowboys flagship site.  On Talking Cowboys, David Hellman asked the other broadcasters if any of them has seen Connor take a single bad rep yet. It was also mentioned Nate Newton said this offensive line is already the best he’s seen in years.

It’s always smart to wait and see how rookies play in games, but early reports from those watching are unanimous that this group will be elite right out the gates.


With great news also comes a bit of concern. While Fleming has surely exceeded Green in swing tackle status, he’s also struggling a bit with technique when tired.

Seeing as it’s only the early stages of camp it’s safe to say Fleming’s concentration will improve as his conditioning level rises. Last season he proved to be a reliable starter in big games which speaks volumes.

All signs are pointing to the Cowboys fielding one of the most dominant, complete offensive lines in recent memory. With Ezekiel Elliott wrecking defenses it will only create more space for Prescott and the receivers.

Next. 30 greatest Cowboys in franchise history. dark

There are plenty of questions left unanswered. But if Dallas’ new offensive line plays as advertised, there won’t be a game on the schedule they aren’t within reach of winning.