The Dallas Cowboys have been a disappointment to many thus far in 2017. After suffering a home loss to the Los Angeles Rams and falling to 2-2 on the year, fans and analysts alike seem to be looking around rapidly for who to blame.
Due to the lack of consistent success on the ground, fans have started to take out their frustration on the offensive line. I have been critical of certain members of this line this season, but have yet to really write about the “big three” upfront. Those three being Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, and Tyron Smith.
Of the three, Frederick has received the most mixed reviews. Some analysts have said Frederick doesn't look like the same player from a year ago, claiming he is one of the main culprits in the Cowboys' lack of success.
Of course, we don't just take anyone's word and we always like to determine opinions for ourselves. And after watching this offensive line for four straight weeks, I'm here to “report” my findings on Frederick.
For starters, much of the souring on Travis Frederick stems from his week one performance against Damon Harrison. For the first time in a long time, I graded Frederick out a loser for the game in this one-on-one match up.
Harrison is one of the league's best interior defensive linemen, and made splash plays throughout the season opener. On this play, Frederick is asked to reach Harrison in a one technique. Since it is outside zone, right guard Zack Martin is not responsible for any backside help. He is to step laterally playside and take what comes into his track.
This leaves Frederick on an island, and on this rep against a beast of a defensive tackle, he couldn't get it done.
Last Sunday against the Rams, Frederick was asked to make a similar block on defensive tackle Michael Brockers. Brockers is a very good nose tackle himself, and is lined up in a zero shade over Frederick on this play.
Watch how smooth Travis Frederick is with his first three steps, flipping his hips and getting a punch on the outside armpit of the nose. This is a textbook reach block on a nose here, and the ability to do this is just one of the many things which make Frederick great.
One way I can explain what seems to be a drop off in Frederick's play is by showing you a rep such as the one above. After working with Ronald Leary last season, Frederick is now working with first time guard Chaz Green and Jonathan Cooper. As hard as I was on Green after the Arizona game, Cooper was much worse against the Rams.
This is a pretty simple inside running play. With Brockers in a one technique, and no immediate threat to Cooper's playside shoulder, he should step down and provide help to Frederick before moving to the second level. If the defender was shaded on the guard, this could end up being a classic double team, but in this case he just has to give some help at the very least.
Cooper does just about nothing to help Frederick gain leverage here. Instead, he quickly abandons the down lineman and moves to the second level without allowing Frederick to take over the nose. If Cooper had at least blocked the linebacker, this still could've been a successful play, but he messes up on two counts here.
So to the naked eye watching the television, it looks like Frederick got stood up and bullied a bit. They then scream about a drop off in the All-Pro center's play. But in reality, the left guard has to do more to help Frederick take this block over before moving to the second level.
The last clip we'll look at involves Travis Frederick in pass protection. With the defender only slightly shaded and the Rams rushing four, Frederick is responsible for that nose. At first, it appears the rusher will be able get by him as Frederick begins to turn his hips.
Then, Frederick makes a nice recovery to re-gain leverage and lock the defender down right at the line of scrimmage.
There is no doubt that something hasn't been right with this offensive line in 2017. After being one of the top 5 units over the past three seasons, they have played rather average thus far. But, all in all, Travis Frederick is part of the solution, not the problem.
Despite some early struggles and some stiff competition, Frederick still deserves to be mentioned among the elite offensive linemen in this league. His play has earned him that right.