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Dallas Cowboys Film Analysis: Grading the Offensive Line in the NFC East Championship



Cowboys Blog - Dallas Cowboys Film Analysis: Grading the Offensive Line in the NFC East Championship 5

Analyst: Todd Werley @TWerley62 (Due to issues with Word Press, Todd wasn't able to "post" this article but did all authoring/analysis)

Game Analyzed: Week 17 @ Washington Redskins

Starters: 77, 71, 63, 73 and 68 with Parnell rotating again.

Grading system used is pretty simple. For starting OL who get every rep a bad score is anything less then 10. The 11-20 range is average and anything over 20 is exceptional play.

Going into week 17 for a playoff spot should be your best football, so I believe these grades tell the tale more then others. Before reading these grades it should be noted that the Redskins ran a base 3-4 defense that caused a lot of protection problems by sending more then front five could block.

The non-existent run game had to do with trailing most of the game but Vickers also was a big factor. I can't tell you how many times wrote "Vickers blown up by LB", so a ton of running plays were over before they started.

Overall it still wasn't a stellar day for the trenches either.

LT Tyron Smith

Smith got every snap at left tackle and besides a few missed assignments on protection was solid. Main thing with Smith is if he gets his hands on a defender the most likely won't get near the Ball Carrier. A couple times Kerrigan got underneath his pads but Smith didn't give up a sack. Blitzes confused him early but later in game he adjusted. He was the most consistent OL and will only get better with another year at left tackle.

Grade +21

LG Nate Livings

Got every snap at left guard. Livings started the game fairly strong getting push on Bowen on zone runs and had good pass protection. Livings started to struggle when Skins brought pressure. One thing about Livings is that he has a decent punch but at times waits to engage with opposing defensive lineman. He will get pushed back but can reset himself well. In the second half Bowen got the best of him several times. Livings gave up a sack in protection late in the game when the Redskins continued to blitz and confuse protection. Out of the two guards neither were great but he was the best of the two. Still think when healthy he and Smith are solid on the left side. Out of starting offensive lineman Livings is the only one who seems to possess some nastiness on film.

Grade +14

C Ryan Cook

Biggest thing you see about Cook is he is definitely a Garrett type guy. He may not look or play like a Pro-Bowler but knows what he can and cannot do. Again like I've seen in previous breakdowns he positions his body well in front of defensive lineman. He missed a twist stunt early and caused another hurry when was overpowered by Cofield. Cook had a  pancake block on Fletcher when Murray broke a long run and for most part was solid. Great Depth/Backup guy moving forward if Dallas doesn't add a center and Costa can stay healthy.

Grade + 17

RG Mackenzy Bernadeau

Got every rep at right guard. Like I saw with analysis of the Steelers game,  its easy to see which position needs to be upgraded the most. For most of the game in pass protection 73 looks like he is on skates. Too many times has he has no punch and is being overpowered where Romo cannot extend his arm or follow through. Ball came out fluttering at least once because of Bernadeau getting beat. This is a recurring thing with Bernadeau, saw that many times in Steelers game as well.  In both games Bernadeau graded the lowest of 6 offensive lineman evaluated.

Grade +9

RT Doug Free

Rotated with Parnell but Free started and finished game at right tackle. Not sure if a light came on or if the rotation helped him but at the end of season Free was not nearly as bad as the first 8 games. Free showed good seal blocks to spark Murray on a few long runs and pass protection wasn't bad. Gave up two hurries but no sacks. The majority of the pressure on Romo came because of the interior offensive line and a few because Skins had more rushers than Cowboys had blocking.

Grade with split reps +10

RT Jeremy Parnell

Parnell got five series but a few were cut short because of turnovers. He appeared to be good in pass protection. Although he plays high at times, when he gets his body on defensive linemen he usually gets them moving. If he continues to progress I believe he can develop into a starting right tackle if the Cowboys don't draft one. From what I saw in two games evaluated  it wouldn't be as tragic as some think if Free took a pay cut and Parnell wins starting right tackle spot.

Grade with Split reps +10

Everyone breaks down film their own way.  I believe that my way is an accurate representation of these players ability.  If you disagree, let me know what you think! To each their own!

Check in every Sunday for film analysis by Todd Werley. 

Former Sports Writer. Veteran. Serving veterans is my passion. Johns Hopkins Student. Enjoy Discussing Politics and sports!

Player News

Cowboys Sign Free Agent WR Deonte Thompson

Jess Haynie



Deonte Thompson

The Dallas Cowboys added some speed to their receiver corps today by signing free agent Deonte Thompson. He played for both the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills last season.

Thompson, who turned 29 last month, went undrafted in 2012. He had a quiet to start to his career as a reserve and practice squad guy in Baltimore and Chicago, but finally got a chance to shine with seven starts last year for the Bills. He 27 catches for 430 yards and one touchdown in just 11 games.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

The #Cowboys signed WR Deonte Thompson, per agent @davidcanter. He gets 1-year, $2.5M with a $1M signing bonus.

Deonte brings some much-needed speed to the Cowboys offense. He ran a 4.31 40-yard dash as a rookie, and while he's 29 now he still poses more of a vertical threat than the current Dallas receivers.

Given the low salary in this deal, Thompson may not be seen as much than a replacement for Brice Butler near the bottom of Dallas' depth chart. We also have to wait and see what happens with the draft and other moves this offseason to know where he fits into the bigger picture.

For now, though, Cowboys fans can take a little comfort in knowing the front office hasn't completely fallen asleep at the wheel.

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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys: How “Position-Flex” Has Handcuffed The 2015 Draft Class

Kevin Brady



Byron Jones

Over the last few years the Dallas Cowboys have placed a high level of importance on "position flex." They've drafted Swiss-Army knife players which could be moved around to different positions on the field.

By drafting players like Chidobe Awuzie and Xavier Woods last year, as well as Byron Jones in 2015, the Cowboys have tried to find these versatile players who can be used in multiple ways.

While this seems great on paper, this strategy has handcuffed the majority of their 2015 Draft Class, and is a key reason why the Cowboys seem to be in such a tough spot.

Byron Jones

The Cowboys' first round pick in 2015, Byron Jones, quickly became a favorite of mine during his rookie season. Incredibly athletic, long, and skilled in coverage, Jones was able to be both a fantastic cover cornerback and a solid middle-of-the-field safety due to his range.

Due to both injuries to his teammates, and Jones' own versatility, the Cowboys coaching staff couldn't keep Jones in just one spot. Once they discovered how great he was in man coverage against tight ends, they became enamored with trying to play him in the box.

Once in the box, Jones' struggles as a run defender were highlighted, and both the organization and the fans soured on him quickly.

Now it is rumored that Byron Jones will be moving back to cornerback full time. And while I do hope this is the case, the fact that he is in year four, and the Cowboys haven't been able to find their first round pick a permanent home is a huge indictment on their ability to evaluate and develop talent.

Chaz Green

Okay, hear me out.

The former third round pick of the 2015 Draft was brought in to be the swing tackle for the Cowboys his rookie year. Mainly due to injuries, Green did not see the field for much of his first two seasons. When he did fill in for Tyron Smith at left tackle in 2016, however, Green was very effective.

Of course, Chaz Green's last appearance with the Cowboys was ugly, giving up a plethora of sacks against the Atlanta Falcons. But Dallas might've made their own bed with Green during the beginning of the 2017 season, when they attempted to move him to left guard full time.

Instead of getting the increased work at tackle, and continuing to work as the swing tackle for the team in case of injury, Dallas started Green at left guard early on in the year. He struggled trying to move positions, and looked even worse when trying to move back to tackle.

Once again, the position flex bit the Cowboys right in the backside.

La'el Collins

It's 2018 and we are still talking about what position to play La'el Collins on the offensive line. And that is solely on the coaching staff and front office, not Collins.

Collins was brought in as an undrafted free agent in 2015, but was widely regarded as a first round pick heading into that draft. Though he started at left tackle at LSU, Dallas shifted Collins inside to left guard in 2015. After taking over for Ronald Leary as the starter, Collins produced highlight blocks week after week.

Injuries shortened his 2016 campaign, but heading into 2017 the Cowboys decided to shift him back out to right tackle. Despite some early struggles, Collins progressed nicely throughout the year and became a solid starting right tackle. Plus, he has the upside to become one of the top right tackles in the league.

Instead, it is now being rumored the Cowboys might move him back to guard for 2018. And with that news, I continue to pull my hair out over the position-flex decisions this coaching staff and front office like to make.

If the Cowboys want to get the most out of each draft class, and effectively develop their talent, they need to let those players actually develop, rather than move them around each season. Hopefully they now understand this, and allow both Byron Jones and La'el Collins to reach their full potential.

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Player News

Dallas Cowboys Sign LB Joe Thomas to 2 Year Deal

Sean Martin



Dallas Cowboys Sign LB Joe Thomas to 2 Year Deal

At long last, the Dallas Cowboys have their first free agent addition of this offseason. Having lost starters Jonathan Cooper and Anthony Hitchens at left guard and linebacker respectively, the team has added depth at LB with Joe Thomas signing a two-year deal.

The 2018 season will actually mark Joe Thomas' second stint with the Dallas Cowboys, as he was signed to their practice squad in 2015. The team that signed Thomas out of South Carolina State following the 2014 draft, the Green Bay Packers, added Thomas back to their active roster for the 2015 season.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Source: Cowboys have agreed to a 2-year deal with free agent LB Joe Thomas. He visited the Cowboys today. Thomas has played in 42 games over the last three seasons with the Packers. He had a career-high 70 tackles in 2016.

Thomas has spent the last three seasons starting eight games for the Packers, recording 70 tackles and an interception in 2016.

A contingency plan of Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith carrying the Cowboys for 16 games at LB requires adequate depth, which is exactly what the Cowboys are typically in the market for come free agency. Waiting longer than usual to make their first splash, the Cowboys absolutely need an addition like Thomas to perform better than last year's FA class.

Used in sub packages by the Packers while also playing special teams - where the Cowboys have lost core players in Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber - Thomas will have a great chance to impress two new Dallas coaches in Ben Bloom and Keith O'Quinn.

Tell us what you think about "Dallas Cowboys Sign LB Joe Thomas to 2 Year Deal" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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