The Cowboys’ 9-7 finish in 2017 exposed some clear weaknesses on their roster. One of the major problem areas was the depth of the offensive line, which should make it a top priority in the 2018 offseason.
Of course, any mention of offensive line woes makes you think of Chaz Green getting obliterated by Adrian Clayborn and the Atlanta Falcons. Clayborn, who only had 9.5 sacks total for the year, picked up six of them in that game as Green tried to play left tackle for the injured Tyron Smith. But the issue extends beyond Chaz.
Byron Bell was an improvement — but still a liability — when he took over as the swing tackle. Further, the Cowboys currently have no proven backups at guard or center with Joe Looney’s contract now expired.
Now that Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin are all veterans, Dallas has to start thinking about the wear and tear they take, and having better reserve options in place. The luxury of guys like La’el Collins and Jonathan Cooper on the bench is over; they’re now starters after Ronald Leary and Doug Free departed last season.
Even though all of the starters are in their prime years, injuries can happen at anytime. All it takes is that one play when your legs get caught under you; “pop” goes the ACL, and your season is over.
The Cowboys rely too heavily on their offensive line to play loose with the depth chart. Going thin last year just might have cost them a game or two when Smith and Collins had to miss time, and Dallas can’t take that same chance in 2018 with a return to the playoffs as their goal.
Thankfully, picking up quality depth isn’t a major expense. Solid veteran reserves can be had for a couple million dollars, maybe even less.
If they elect to use the draft to restock, a capable swing tackle may be found in the second or third round. A solid guard or center option could even be found in the middle rounds.
There will be plenty of spots to fill. Outside of the returning starters, Dallas only has Chaz Green and prospects Kadeem Edwards and Jarron Jones under contract. Like Joe Looney, Byron Bell is also a free agent this offseason.
As much as we’re focused on more glamorous positions right now for offseason needs, the offensive line depth should not take a backseat. All the receiver talent in the world doesn’t matter if Dak Prescott is getting killed like he was that day in Atlanta.
The time for experiments and second chances (sorry Chaz) is over.