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Film Review: Cowboys Interior O-Line Struggles Make Zeke Look Human

Kevin Brady



- Travis Frederick, #72

For all the questions which surrounded the Dallas Cowboys going into the season opener, the one unit which we thought we could count on would be the offensive line. Heralded as the strongest unit in all of football, the run game was supposed to excel on Sunday, and carry the Cowboys to success while quarterback Tony Romo was missing.

But then this top unit ran into a wall. Led by Damon Harrison and Jonathon Hankins, the New York Giants defensive tackles gave All-Pro Center Travis Frederick and potential Pro Bowler La'el Collins fits on Sunday.

We knew that the Giants defensive line would be a tough match-up given their size and talent, but I had expected Frederick and company to get the better of the two on most occasions. Unfortunately, Sunday might have been Frederick's worst performance as a Cowboy.


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The Cowboys want their bread and butter play to be inside zone. On any inside zone play, the center has an extremely important block. Either he must combo up to the playside backer, or take on the playside 1-technique when the play is run weak side. The latter is at play here.

Given Ezekiel Elliott's vision and the design of the play, Frederick doesn't have to get a ton of movement on the tackle for it to be successful. He just needs to get in the right position, and stop penetration. Neither of these happen on this play, and it results in him getting shed in the backfield, and Elliott being brought down.

Of course, Doug Free and Jason Witten also contributed to the failure of this play, but this is a block we have seen Frederick make time and time again. He must be better next week in this area.

As I mentioned earlier, the center has a very important block on any inside zone play. Here we see the Cowboys run it to the strong side, requiring Frederick to get on his horse and cut off the playside backer.

Instead he gets tied up with the backside 1-technique and pushed off his track. When he finally gets to the second level, he whiffs on the backer, who gets in on the tackle.


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Once the defensive tackle shifts down to a 1-technique, Frederick and Collins are expecting to combo block on him up to the playside backer. Instead, Fredrick is pushed back violently right off the ball, and Collins bails on his playside zone step. The result, the defensive tackle splits the double team and it looks real ugly.

Had the block on the tackle been made, the Cowboys would have actually had a nice play, with Elliott having a two-way go.

Okay, I am done with the negatives for now. Travis Fredrick is the best center in all of football. This is a pure fact, no matter how ugly some of his reps looked against the Giants on Sunday.

The good news for the Cowboys, Frederick won't play this poorly two weeks in a row. He is too talented to do so. Also, the Cowboys next opponent, the Washington Redskins, don't have anyone near the talent level of Damon Harrison on their defensive line.

I am expecting a huge bounce-back game from not only Frederick but the entire Cowboys offensive line in the run game this week. And if they can get going back to their true form, the Cowboys will have a real shot to get their first win of the season


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I'll leave you with a positive play for Travis Frederick and La'el Collins, so you can rest a little easier knowing that they can be better.

Die-hard Cowboys fan from the Northeast, so you know I am here to defend the 'boys whenever necessary. Began writing for a WordPress Cowboys Blog, and am currently a college student. Lets get going.

  • talkingballyoutube

    I think Weston Richburg might have something to say about your assertion that Frederick is the best Center in football.

    • Kevin Brady

      He might have something to say, but he’d be wrong. At least in my estimation.

  • Guerro

    5 can’t block 8 any way u look at it!!

    • Kevin Brady

      At times they were outnumbered, but on a good number of the clips I posted there were simply missed blocks at times.

  • Julius Jamarco Silas

    This is exactly what I thought GREAT article I agree %

    • Sean Martin

      Thank you so much for reading! I appreciate it a ton. Go Cowboys!

  • Jarrett

    Great read and it’s good to see everyone needs to get a little momentum . It looks like the o-line and Zeke will have much easier going in this week’s game.

    • Kevin Brady

      Thank you for reading and commenting! And I agree, this week should look a lot better in the running game.

  • Mike Young

    Excellent breakdowns and illustrations. Looking forward to better play this week (all-around). Go Cowboys!

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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