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Camp Questions: Does Experience Give Connor Williams the Edge at LG?

The left guard competition is getting a reprise this Summer. Heading into 2019’s edition of Dallas Cowboys training camp, there was talk that incumbent starter Connor Williams would see some competition for reps from rookie third-round pick Connor McGovern. McGovern suffered a setback in his return from a pectoral injury, missed all of training camp, and was placed on IR before the start of the season.

So much for that training camp competition.

This year the left guard competition takes on the second installment as McGovern is healthy, and Connor Williams is coming back from a season-ending ACL injury he suffered back in November. If there’s one positive takeaway for Williams, it’s that COVID-19 hasn’t allowed the team to get on the practice field. So, Williams hasn’t ceded any repetitions to McGovern at this point.

However, as the NFL begins to ramp up training camp, the players will have to undergo conditioning tests and prove that they’re ready to go for the start of camp.

Last year, there was a lot of excitement about the potential of McGovern, who the Dallas Cowboys had a second-round grade. The belief being he’d be able to push Williams and potentially take over the left guard position. Here we are a year later, and we’re having the same discussion.

Connor Williams has started 24 games over the last two years. Despite some struggles early in his rookie season, he began to show a comfort level in the second half of 2018 and played will in the Dallas Cowboys two playoff games that year. In 2019, he added weight and muscle, showing improved play strength, but again, injuries caught up to him, and his season was cut short.

Pro Football Focus graded Connor Williams the 39th best guard in the NFL among players who took at least 587 snaps in 2019. He was the lowest graded Dallas Cowboys offensive line, however, don’t let that kill the buzz on Williams. Being the fifth-best offensive lineman on a line with Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, La’el Collins, and Travis Frederick shouldn’t diminish your opinion of him. He hasn’t been an All-Pro or Pro Bowl player yet, but he’s been good enough for the Cowboys to win some games.

Connor McGovern comes in a highly regarded offensive lineman out of Penn State. Throughout his career at Penn State, he played 22 games at guard and 13 games at center as a sophomore. He comes into the NFL with a lot of interior offensive line experience.

Because of the shortened offseason, McGovern will start behind the eight ball a bit as he hasn’t gone through a full offseason or training camp with the Dallas Cowboys, while Williams has been through two.

This is one competition that is a bit of an unknown. With new offensive line coach Joe Philbin on board, there’s a clean slate in the left guard competition. Williams may have an edge heading into training camp and, with his experience, may be able to hold onto the job. Continuity is key along the offensive line, and the Cowboys have an opportunity to return all five starters from the offensive line that helped Ezekiel Elliott lead the league in rushing, and the Dallas Cowboys make the playoffs.

McGovern not only needs to overcome Williams on the talent front but be able to communicate well with Looney or rookie Center Tyler Biadasz and the rest of the offensive line. Continuity and cohesion are essential aspects of offensive line play as they have to play off of one another. That is especially true when the interior uses a combo block and has to time when to release to the next level.

Connor Williams has that experience, and though Connor McGovern should push him during training camp, Williams will win the job out of training camp. McGovern will still have an essential role on the offensive line as a backup at both guard spots and could be used at center if necessary. However, the training camp competition falls, the Dallas Cowboys will have a good option to deploy at left guard out of training camp.

What do you think?

John Williams

Written by John Williams

Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual, reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.

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