In recent games, the Dallas Cowboys offensive and defensive lines have both played poorly. Is it possible for the line play to improve?
Last year, the Dallas Cowboys won against the Seattle Seahawks in the first round of the playoffs, only to lose the following week against the Los Angeles Rams. At the time, it was obvious why America’s Team lost.
It wasn’t because quarterback Dak Prescott wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t because the receivers, or cornerbacks weren’t good enough. No. Dallas lost the game in the trenches. They were manhandled on both the offensive and defensive lines.
At the time, the headline statistic was the 273 yards the Rams ran through the Cowboys’ defense: 123 for journeyman running back C.J. Anderson and 115 yards for Todd Gurley. They were shocking numbers. The flip side of the coin was that the Cowboys only ran for 50 yards, 47 of them coming from starting running back Ezekiel Elliott.
At the time, much of this was blamed on injuries. On the defensive side, both nose tackle Antwaun Woods, and three-technique Maliek Collins were both hobbled by nagging injuries. Collins had a sore ankle, while Woods had a torn labrum.
On the offensive side, the Cowboys were handicapped all season with All-Pro Center Travis Frederick out with Guillain-Barre syndrome. In addition, rookie guard Connor Williams looked overwhelmed at times last season.
He just wasn’t strong enough to stop bull rushes, and was sometimes pushed right into Prescott’s lap. In short, the Cowboys were weak in the middle on both offense and defense against the Rams, and that’s why they lost.
In the offseason, solving these problems along the line was one of the main priorities. To solve it, they drafted defensive tackle Trysten Hill and offensive tackle Connor McGovern with their two highest picks, then signed defensive tackle Christian Covington to back-up Woods at nose tackle along with several defensive ends. Meanwhile, Connor Williams was busy bulking up, and Travis Frederick was doing all he could to get healthy.
The question was whether all of this would be enough. Would Frederick be ready to go at the start of the season? Would he regain all his former strength? Would Williams or his backup Xavier Su’a-Filo be good enough? How about Covington?
These were all good questions. And just to be on the safe side, Dallas carried 11 offensive linemen on the day 1 roster. That’s a lot.