Can the Dallas Cowboys win without a healthy offensive line?
The Dallas Cowboys have been known for having amongst the best offensive line in football. How important is a healthy group to the team’s offense?
The offense in football has various pieces that come together to make a complicated group of guys trying to make something happen. Some rely on their quarterback, some on their running back, and then some on their offensive line.
The Dallas Cowboys have spent the past eight years trying to put together an offensive line that will bully the opposition. With this line, they would have two crucial factors in football, space and time. How important is Dallas’ offensive line to their success on the offensive side of the ball?
Eight years in the making
Back in 2011, the Dallas Cowboys drafted their first piece to their monster offensive line in offensive tackle Tyron Smith. Two years later they drafted their center, Travis Frederick.
One year after that, executive vice president Stephen Jones, also owner Jerry Jones‘ son, had to convince his father to draft guard Zack Martin over quarterback Johnny Manziel. By 2014 Dallas would have their three main pieces to dominate opposing defenses.
They rounded out their line by signing La’el Collins as an undrafted free agent in 2015 and drafting guard Connor Williams in 2018. To say that the Cowboys have done a good job scouting and grabbing offensive lineman is an understatement.
Smith is a two-time first-team All-Pro, two-time second-team All-Pro, and a six-time Pro Bowler. Frederick is a one-time first-team All-Pro, three-time second-team All-Pro, and a four-time Pro Bowler. Martin is a three-time first-team All-Pro, two-time second-team All-Pro, and a five-time Pro Bowler.
That is a lot of power that Dallas has in their front five. Collins and Williams have yet to claim any awards, but considering their teammates have as many as they do, Collins and Williams should not have to worry.
With and Without
When the Cowboys have their three main pieces (Frederick, Smith, and Martin) the offense has been great. Since 2014, Dallas has had the second-most rushing yards per game in the league three times. Those years were in 2014, 2016 and 2017.
In 2016 the Cowboys ranked fifth in total yards per game. In 2014 and 2016 Dallas ranked fifth in points scored. They have played well with the new pieces they had put into place.
Last season, Travis Frederick missed the entire season because of an autoimmune disease. This saw Dallas rank 22nd in points scored and 22nd in total yards per game. Frederick is the leader of that offensive front and they suffered from his absence.
In a previous article, I touched on the importance of this offensive line. Something I want to bring up again is that Dallas gave up 56.0 sacks last season, which is the most since 1986.
In 2015 all three of the Cowboys’ pieces on the front were healthy, yet they had a very underwhelming offense. that is because starting quarterback Tony Romo suffered an injury, forcing backup Matt Cassel into the starting role.
From 2014 to after Week 6 of 2019, the Cowboys are 4-4 in games where only Smith is the injured player of the trio. The Cowboys record with only Frederick injured is 6-5 (all in 2018).
Martin only missed time in 2018 which was when Frederick was out all season. In one game with Martin and Frederick out, the Cowboys lost. In two games with Frederick and Smith out, Dallas won both games.
There was one game last year where Frederick, Martin, and Smith were all out of the game. Dallas won that game, which was also Week 17 as the Cowboys were getting ready for the playoffs.
This past Sunday against the New York Jets, quarterback Dak Prescott did not look all that comfortable in the pocket. That was because he ended up getting hit eight times. One reason is as a result of offensive tackles Tyron Smith and La’el Collins being out with injuries.
What does this mean?
Dallas has shown that they can win while a key offensive lineman is out, and even when their top three are out. The problem is that It puts a lot of pressure on Dak Prescott and forces him to get rid of the ball quickly.
Every team would like their starters in their lineup every night. I just think that because Dallas is so good, when something goes wrong it is a bigger shock and harder to keep the same amount of success. More or less, the Cowboys offensive line is a crucial part of the offense.