The Dallas Cowboys front office seems to have an experiment going on this 2022 offseason: let’s see what young, inexperienced players can do instead of signing or trading for veteran talent to fill major positional needs.
We saw what happened with said experiment when they trusted UDFA Jonathan Garibay to be the kicker for this team. The rookie got cut before preseason games even began and now they’re still trying to figure out who their kicker is in mid-August. It’s also happening with the wide receiver group. Instead of bringing in a veteran after losing Michael Gallup and James Washington to injury, Jerry Jones is just letting young receivers fight it out in camp.
It’s true that guys like Dennis Houston, Jalen Tolbert, and Noah Brown shined in camp (without pads and against their own teammates), but those WRs struggled in their first preseason games against backup players.
Perhaps the group in the biggest trouble is the offensive line, specifically the swing tackle position. Even though a swing tackle isn’t usually a star or top player, this position is vital to offensive line success. Teams need a swing tackle who can fill in on either side of the line without causing a disaster on the offensive line.
This position is particularly important for the Cowboys due to the durability of Pro Bowl OT Tyron Smith. The 12th-year player is a phenomenal tackle, but not without his faults. He has missed playing time in the last six seasons in a row.
So, what did the Dallas front office deem was acceptable for their swing tackle options knowing what they know about Tyron Smith? Letting former fourth-round pick Josh Ball (who has yet to play in a single game and has previous behavior issues) and 2022 fifth-round pick Matt Waletzko battle it out. To reiterate, their idea for someone who can fill in for an 8x Pro Bowler and 2x All-Pro was a competition between two people who have never played a game in the NFL.
As if that wasn’t concerning enough, those two options are essentially down to one. During camp in Oxnard, Waletzko reaggravated a shoulder injury he had in college. A recent report from the Dallas Morning News revealed that the season “isn’t over” for the rookie, but he will eventually need surgery on that shoulder.
And then there was Ball.
While there were multiple poor performances in this first preseason game against Denver, Ball arguably had the worst of them all. The young player did not step up to the challenge.
The Cowboys are left with one, poor option at swing tackle, Josh Ball, who did not play well vs. the Broncos
If Ball was just getting reps in as a backup guy, this wouldn’t be as alarming. It’s understandable that a player’s first NFL experience is going to be a challenge. The problem is that he’s the only current option. The Cowboys can’t afford to have him playing like a developmental prospect if Smith hasn’t been able to stay healthy for a full season in several years.
When this team chose to get rid of La’el Collins and Connor Williams they needed to do more than count on inexperienced players and rookies to fill long-time veteran spots. Tyler Smith was a good grab, but he’s likely to start at left guard, making him unavailable to be a swing tackle. Terence Steele will probably be the starting right tackle to fill in for the loss of Collins.
Offensive linemen don’t get enough credit, but the reality is that without a strong front, the running and passing game won’t succeed.
This offensive line struggled last year with Williams and Collins. To not bring in any veteran talent to help boost this line that is a big blend of unschooled guys and veterans with durability issues is a mistake. It is not only setting this line up for failure, but it’s also setting Dak Prescott up for failure if he has no protection in front of him.
Even if Waletzko wasn’t injured, the thought to have him and Ball compete for an incredibly important position on this roster was irresponsible. Ball doesn’t have time to develop.
The front office needs to start making phone calls quickly, or this offense will seriously suffer.