It appears the Dallas Cowboys are considering a change at left guard. After a penalty-filled start to 2021 for Connor Williams, backup Connor McGovern is reportedly getting a serious look in practice this week as the potential new starter.
Earlier this week, after Williams drew three flags during Dallas' big win over the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday, head coach Mike McCarthy made a clear statement that a possible change was coming.
Cowboys LG Connor Williams was flagged three times Sunday, pushing his penalty count to an NFL-high 13 on season (10 accepted). Mike McCarthy: “Connor clearly understands the way he performed. We have a very competitive offensive line room, so we'll see what the future brings.”
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) November 15, 2021
What wasn't clear on Monday was who might replace Williams. The Cowboys have a couple of options and especially with the potential that OT Tyron Smith is returning from an ankle injury this Sunday.
Smith's return would free up Terence Steele, who's played the last two games at left tackle, to go back to the right side where he's better suited. That would allow La'el Collins to take over at left guard, which he played for the first few years in Dallas before converting to right tackle.
Given how well Steele played at RT this year during Collins' five-game suspension, the idea's been out there that moving La'el to guard would be how the Cowboys got their five best offensive linemen on the field together.
But with the latest reports out of Dallas, it seems a change at guard this week is going to involve Connor McGovern.
Graduation day could be near for Cowboys backup Connor McGovern. As his confidence grows, he is seeing more premium work at left guard before Chiefs game. La'el Collins: "I think he is a hell of a player, and he is going to be a hell of a player." https://t.co/hHaQxChN5S
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) November 19, 2021
Now in his third season, McGovern has been an intriguing figure since the Cowboys drafted him in the 3rd Round in 2019. There was talk back then that, had he not suffered a torn pectoral muscle in training camp, McGovern might have beaten Williams for the starting job as a rookie.
But Connor Williams was good enough in 2019 that Dallas stuck with him in 2020 and saw growth in the role. Williams did well last season even with the rest of the offense imploding around him, earning a shot to return to the job this year.
Unfortunately, penalties have become the big issue now. And while he's better physically than in past seasons, Williams still has times when his lack of strength as a guard is far too apparent.
A former 2nd-Round pick himself, the job's always been Connor Williams' to keep. But his struggles have opened the door now for McGovern, and the other Connor may offer some additional incentive for the Cowboys to make the switch.
While Williams' rookie contract expires after this season, McGovern still has one year left on his. A successful move to McGovern now would offer Dallas continuity this offseason and the ability to let Williams walk in free agency without losing a starter.
Again, this financial incentive is only considered because of what's happening on the field. The Cowboys wouldn't pull Williams unless his performance was the issue.
Nothing is official yet; Connor Williams is still the starting left guard for the Dallas Cowboys until McCarthy announces the change or we see it happen in a game. But even if he doesn't start this Sunday in Kansas City, Connor McGovern may very well take the job before the day's over.