After the first three weeks, the 2-1 Dallas Cowboys are in pretty good shape heading into week four. In the first three games we’ve slowly but surely seen the defense get better, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott have found their grooves, and the play calling has improved. What has yet to improve, that I’m sure surprises us all, is the offensive line.
Through three weeks, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the offensive line has been the worst position group on the team. Trust me, I can’t believe I’m saying that either.
In recent years we’ve seen the OL struggle in maybe one aspect of the game for a game or two, but two weeks in a row the Dallas OL has been bad across the board. The first question that will always get brought up is, are they struggling because of the departures of Doug Free and Ronald Leary?
While that certainly doesn’t help the cause, Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin haven’t been playing at the All-Pro level we’re used to seeing. If I had to guess, it’s likely due to each lineman feeling out the new man beside him.
If you didn’t know this yet, you do now. Each Cowboys’ offensive lineman has never played in a regular season game lined up beside the teammate he’s currently playing alongside, other than Travis Frederick and Zack Martin. Even then, Frederick has a new face at left guard in Chaz Green.
When La’el Collins was the starting left guard, he was lined up between Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick. When Chaz Green played left tackle last year, filling in for Tyron Smith, he lined up beside Ronald Leary. Tyron Smith has very few reps playing alongside Chaz Green and Zack Martin has very few reps playing alongside La’el Collins.
Why does that matter?
Playing offensive line is all about knowing when and where your teammates are going to be and who they are going to block.
For example, Travis Frederick never used to worry about passing his man off to Ron Leary. Tyron Smith never had to worry about giving Ron Leary some help inside while also dealing with whoever is screaming off the edge.
The main reason behind that is because those five guys had played so many snaps together as a unit. So far this year, that has changed. Each lineman is having more responsibilities helping each other out.
The current five starters have only played three regular season games together and are still feeling each other out. The first team unit didn’t get many reps together in preseason due to injury concerns with both Tyron Smith and Chaz Green.
So we should all probably pump the breaks on the worrying just a little bit
So far it hasn’t been pretty, but eventually this OL will figure it out.
It may take another week or two to fully gel, but I personally don’t think this is a long-term issue. We saw at the end of the Arizona game that Dak Prescott was getting more time to pass, and Ezekiel Elliott’s running lanes were opening up more and more.
The Dallas Cowboys offensive line hasn’t had it easy the first three weeks by any means, facing three of the better defensive lines in the NFL. It doesn’t get any easier this week when the Aaron Donald-led Los Angeles Rams come to town on Sunday.
This week will be a big test to see if this OL has improved at all in the last two weeks. Are you concerned about the offensive line play long-term? Let me know below!