The Cowboys offensive line has received a lot of praise over the last couple of years. Starting in 2014, when their rushing attack first busted onto the scene, they have been regarded as the best unit in all of football.
Sometimes, I think that the boatloads of credit this offensive line gets for the team success can be overstated. But then, I watch the tape, and am reminded of just how dominant each one of these five guys can be.
Monday night against the Detroit Lions, I was once again reminded of how good this offensive line is. As a linemen myself for all of my life, I love watching o-line play. It gets me into football more than any other positions or players in the game. And watching the Cowboys o-line work on Monday night was an absolute delight.
While Ezekiel Elliott only rushed for 80 yards, he did so on just 12 carries. That is absolutely insane. Sure, his long touchdown run early in the game is the reason for the inflation, but that play was just yet another example of how great both the o-line and Zeke are, and of how well they compliment one another.
Doug Free has his rough moments, but he really is one of the top-notch right tackles in the NFL. No, he isn't Tyron Smith and he probably is just the 5th best starting offensive linemen on his own team, but he still makes key blocks like this one in almost every game.
While the other four linemen execute their zone steps on this play to create a cut back line backside, Free stays on the defensive end to seal the edge. His block proves key, as Elliott cuts between he and Martin for a long touchdown run.
Travis Frederick also does a great job here of getting some movement on the nose tackle, something that many centers struggle with.
Incredible pull from Zack Martin here. Defender tries to go inside, so he controls him and logs him down https://t.co/jJJ41A2E2I
The blocking on this play might have been my favorite of the night. Yes, it only goes for a modest gain, but the way that Zack Martin and Jason Witten execute when pulling is fantastic.
Martin comes around and meets the defensive end right on the line of scrimmage. While they stalemate at first, Martin never stops running his feet, allowing himself to log the defender down the line of scrimmage and open up a huge lane.
Witten pulls as well, and does an excellent job of kicking out the incoming linebacker to compliment Martin's block.
No better G/C combo in the league than these two https://t.co/ERC5Xo0aZK
I believe I can say with confidence that Zack Martin and Travis Frederick execute combo blocks better that any other center/guard combination in football. This play is just yet another example of it.
The key to executing the combo block in a zone-scheme is for the front side blocker to take half the man, allowing the backside lineman to overtake the defender, before releasing to the next level.
Martin and Frederick do a picture-perfect job of this on the play, as Frederick gets up to the linebacker after he and Martin get solid movement on the down lineman. Their blocks spring Darren McFadden for a nice gain.
Ridiculous cut-back lane for DMC on inside zone. Full review of Cowboys OL play Monday coming on @InsideTheStarDC tomorrow
The Cowboys offensive line is perfect for zone blocking. Like we saw earlier in the game on Zeke's first touchdown run, they do a great job of allowing for cut back lanes and two-way go's for the running back.
I took this snapshot of a McFadden run to emphasize just how big a hole they have the ability to open up. Had the middle linebacker filled the backside gap immediately to overcompensate for the hole, McFadden would have also had a nice lane on the right side to run through.
With all of the praise which the Cowboys offensive line receives, I am sure that other fan bases, and even some in this fan base, may get sick of hearing about it. But the bottom line is, this unit is the best at what they do. And with the way this team has run the ball all season long, they deserve to be given credit.
Cowboys Will Tag DeMarcus Lawrence; What’s the Plan?
February 20 is an important day for NFL clubs this year. Why? It's the first day in which teams can franchise tag any player. Since 2015, when the Dallas Cowboys tagged Dez Bryant before they were able to work out a long-term deal, Jerry Jones & Co. haven't used the franchise tag. In 2018, though, that will change.
DeMarcus Lawrence just played his best season yet in 2017, and he's looking to get paid big time. Through three years, he had been able to rack up nine sacks, 52 tackles and three forced fumbles. In just 2017, he sacked opposing quarterbacks 14.5 times, had 35 tackles and managed to force four fumbles.
Not only did Lawrence look like an elite pass rusher, but he also improved as a run defender a lot. The Cowboys have been looking for a "War Daddy" for a long, long time and Lawrence seems to be the answer for this football team.
After such a big year, one would expect the Cowboys to sign him to a multi-year enormous contract. But there's a catch. Lawrence failed to remain healthy early in his career and really didn't make as much of an impact until last season.
There's no question that D-Law will be wearing a star come the 2018 NFL season, but will he be doing it under a long-term deal or under a franchise tag?
Cowboys will not place franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence tomorrow as that window opens but will do so by March 6 w/ understanding the goal is to reach a long-term deal. Both sides have until July 16 to make that happen.
For now, according to David Moore from Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys will franchise tag Lawrence with the objective of getting a deal done in July. The tag however, is not expected to be placed as soon as possible.
In 2015, the Cowboys didn't place the franchise tag on Dez Bryant until the final deadline day. This year's deadline is March 6th, so it may be two weeks before they make it official with DeMarcus Lawrence. #CowboysNation #DallasCowboys
What would franchise tagging DeMarcus Lawrence mean for this team?
First of all, they'd make sure he doesn't hit free agency in March. This gives the front office time to get to work and restructure players' contracts if they have to in order to open up as much cap space as they can before giving him a deal.
It's worth mentioning as well, cap savings from players who are designated as post-June 1 cuts will already be available. If you want to be more familiarized with the Cowboys' cap situation, I highly recommend you read John Williams' deep dive on the matter.
It'll continue to be a very interesting story for this offseason, as handing a franchise tag to a player tends to become a non-friendly situation for both parties. Let's hope that's not the case for the Cowboys and Lawrence this year and that everything works out fine.
Here at Inside The Star, we'll continue updating you and the rest of Cowboys Nation throughout the offseason.
Dallas Cowboys OL Fails To Crack NFL.com’s Top 10
Often considered a top unit in football, the Dallas Cowboys offensive line seemed to take a step back in 2017. Mostly due to injuries and free agent departures on the left side, the Cowboys were unable to form the same solid unit we have seen in years past.
Despite their struggles, most would still consider them a top 5-10 offensive line in the NFL. At least, that's what I'd expect considering they still feature three All-Pro caliber players upfront.
Matt Harmon of NFL.com put together a list of the top 10 offensive lines in football based on performance in the 2017 season. The list was strictly developed through the use of next gen stats, which defined pressure as "pass-rushing play in which a defender gets within 2 yards of the opposing quarterback at the time of the throw or sack." In addition, "yards gained before close" was taken into account. This metric is meant to measure "the amount of rushing yards a running back gains before opposing defenders come within 1 yard of the player."
After compiling all of these stats, the Cowboys offensive line was left off of the list completely. Maybe even more surprising, however, was that the Philadelphia Eagles' line failed to crack the top ten as well. That's two lines with 3-4 Pro Bowl caliber players each missing the cut.
According to Matt Harmon the Cowboys allowed a pressure on 28.6% of Dak Prescott's dropbacks, 12th highest in the league. Dallas also ranked 20th in the league in YGBC in 2017.
While I do have some issues with the methodology of these statistics, the final result is actually hard to argue with. Down the stretch the Cowboys offense was downright pathetic at times. Regardless of how highly we thought of them prior to the year, the offense didn't perform to their standards, or the standards of a top ten unit.
Heading into 2018, however, I do expect this offensive line to begin to regain form. La'el Collins should continue to improve on the right side, and he is already an adequate starting right tackle regardless. I also expect Dallas to address their left guard spot, potentially within the first two rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft.
In the end the success of this line may hinge on the health of Tyron Smith, though. When healthy, Smith is the best left tackle in all of football. But that "when healthy" caveat has certainly hurt the Cowboys offense.
The way the front office handles their offensive line this offseason will play a huge role in the success, or lack thereof, of the Cowboys in 2018.
Cowboys 2018 Free Agents: CB Bene Benwikere
After playing sparsely for the Dallas Cowboys in 2017, veteran cornerback Bene Benwikere is set to be an unrestricted free agent. Could he stay in Dallas, or will he have to find work elsewhere?
Dallas was concerned about its CB depth with heavy reliance on young players and Jourdan Lewis barely participating in the offseason. Therefore, the Cowboys traded a sixth-round pick to the Cincinnati Bengals for Benwikere just before Week One.
After a stellar rookie season with the Carolina Panthers in 2014, Bene had suffered a steep fall before landing in Cincy. Injuries and poor play got him cut midway through 2016 by the Panthers, and then Benwikere bounced from Miami to Green Bay before finally signing with the Bengals in the 2017 offseason.
Though a few years removed from being an All-Rookie Team standout, Bene Benwikere is still just 26 and may still draw interest from scouts who remember his better days. He is likely counting on that, because the Cowboys' secondary is starting to fill up.
The Cowboys currently have exciting sophomores Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis expected to start in 2018. Anthony Brown is back for his third season and will be active on game days.
Orlando Scandrick's future is cloudy, but Dallas won't get much cap relief from releasing him this season. They may elect to keep the veteran for one more year, which would all but fill out the CB depth chart.
Even if Scandrick leaves, talk that Dallas may move Byron Jones back to corner from safety would only leave Benwikere in the same disadvantaged position for finding work.
The best chance that Bene Benwikere has to stay with the Cowboys is if new Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard remembers him from 2014. Coaches often feel that can get more out of a player than the last guy, and Richard may see potential in Benwikere that his last few teams couldn't unlock.
Four years ago may be too long, though, and especially with a fresh new crop of young players coming into the league. Especially if they keep Scandrick, Dallas may want to use the rest of their roster spots on younger prospects.
As it stands, Bene Benwikere is unlikely to return to the Cowboys. However, given the flashes of potential he once showed in the NFL, you can't be certain that Dallas won't want to give him one more chance.
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