In an interesting turn of events, there seems to be a good reason for the Dallas Cowboys to reverse course and go back to guard Connor Williams. I say interesting because it didn’t take long for Cowboys fans to put Williams in the dog house shortly after his arrival.
Williams is actually a pretty good guard. Pro Football Focus has him rated as a starter, carrying a 70.6 overall grade. The current starter, Connor McGovern, has an equally impressive 74.0 overall grade. McGovern has played 359 snaps this season and has allowed one sack, but has only been called for two penalties. Williams, on the other hand, has 665 snaps played but is currently tied for second in the league with 13 penalties. He has also only given up one sack to date as well.
So right from the start, blaming the penalties for benching Williams looks obvious. But has the offense been better with Williams on the sideline? The Cowboys made the switch from McGovern to Williams the week of the Kansas City Chiefs contest. Those are the kind of moves that make me scratch my head.
The Cowboys are lucky Dak Prescott was able to walk out of Arrowhead stadium. The team was missing starting left tackle Tyron Smith and their answer to that was to switch out guards and have two inexperienced players protect your quarterback’s blindside? They shockingly made this bold decision while taking on the AFC’s representative for the Super Bowl the past three years.
Obviously, McGovern struggled – as did the rest of the offense. The week prior, Dallas was able to generate 431 total yards and keep the football for almost 38 minutes against Atlanta. Against Kansas City, Dallas held the ball under 30 minutes and had 155 fewer total yards.
Should the Cowboys start Connor Williams over Connor McGovern at guard?
I started to study both of these players, and there is one thing that stands out. We often talk about how Williams and his lack of strength get him in trouble. It would not be a lie to say he holds whenever he gets off-balance. He can also be late passing off a stunt, which is true to a point.
He also has trouble when bigger players line up over him. But the majority of his plays are even or in the plus. As a matter of fact, I believe Williams generates more push upfront than McGovern. As much as fans give Williams flack for preconceived notions, Williams is actually a brute sometimes in the run game. McGovern is more of a wall-off blocking type of player, whereas Williams can move defenders with his strength, which helps with second-level blocks. I also believe Williams understands the scheme better than McGovern. There are times McGovern doesn’t block anyone and looks a bit lost.
If Dallas were to utilize their 11 personnel package more and incorporate more play-action-type of movement, then McGovern is probably your guy. Lately, Dallas has opted for a more vanilla power approach which doesn’t appear to suit McGovern as well.
The Cowboys started the season using a lot of pre-snap motions, but the unimaginative plays the offense has shown as of late make it appear as if the team is trying to protect weaknesses as opposed to attacking the defense.
Benching Williams might have been viewed as a bad thing for him, but I think it could be a blessing in disguise. The team knows what they have in each player, so an educated decision can now be made about their future this upcoming offseason. It could have also allowed Williams to step back and get a better grasp on why he has been penalized so often.
For now, it is apparent that the Cowboys are looking to play the five best options upfront. If you ask me, they should consider moving Williams moving. Yes, the penalties are bad, but Williams was flagged a couple of times in order to keep Dak Prescott from being unnecessarily hit. I believe the offense clearly has performed better with him rather than his replacement.
While watching, it feels like Williams is good for getting pushed back into the play and one drive-killing penalty each game. If that is the tradeoff for the offensive line chemistry to return, then so be it. The projected starting group from this offseason of Tyron Smith, Connor Williams, Tyler Biadasz, Zack Martin, and La’el Collins has yet to start a game for coach Mike McCarthy.
I can’t believe it has come to this. But, if I were making the decisions, Connor Williams would get the start moving forward. That lineup has to be given its opportunity.