The Dallas Cowboys have made it clear for most of the last decade that they're determined to dominate in the trenches utilizing a powerful offensive line. From 2014 to 2016, it was not only regarded by most as the top offensive line in the NFL but arguably the best unit on either side of the ball. Injuries and departures have taken their toll on this group in recent years, but with excellent drafting and strategic offseason acquisitions, all signs point to this line taking back the top spot.
The biggest return, hopefully, will be All-Pro Center, Travis Frederick. Having missed all of 2018 battling Guillain-Barre Syndrome, he has made great strides in reclaiming his throne as the game's top center, if he ever fell off it that is, seemingly picking back up where he left off chemistry wise with Dak Prescott when OTA's began. Ultimately, once he's back in full contact in training camp, then we'll really know where he's at.
The Cowboys do have some insurance at the position with veteran backup Joe Looney, who is entering his fourth season with the team. He started all 16 games and performed very solid making all the necessary pre-snap reads like Frederick had done for years before him. Proving just how valuable depth really is in the league.
Zack Martin is going to be his usual all-pro self at right guard, you can pencil that in today, having received such honors whether it be the first or second team in each of his first five seasons. He's not only dominant but durable, starting 78 out of a possible 80 games since 2014. Playing once again alongside Travis Frederick makes the interior of this offensive line that much more powerful.
The left guard spot isn't as edged in stone. 2018 second round pick Connor Williams started 10 games but suffered a knee injury that kept him out for several weeks. His backup Xavier Su'a-Filo played well in his absence logging 8 starts in his first season with the team, making him a lot easier to trust with time served under his belt. Then there's Connor McGovern, drafted in the third in this year draft, a potential plug-in starter who will definitely be in the mix for playing time. This will definitely be one of the more intriguing position battles going forward. The Cowboys are still trying to find the heir apparent to Ronald Leary who was lost after the 2016 season.
Tyron Smith is still one of, if not the best in the league when healthy at left tackle, but health hasn't always been on his side lately. Nine games missed due to several injuries over the past three seasons has called into question whether or not it's time to find the successor for the perennial all-pro. Veteran Cam Fleming, who was picked up via free agency in 2018, provided much-needed experience in Smith's absence. That's been the only knock recently, availability, because it's clear when he's on the field that right side defensive ends would be better off looking for sunshine at midnight than expecting sacks on Sunday's. Entering year nine it's understandable that monitoring his health will be key going forward, but make no mistake about it, Smith is still causing sleepless nights for defensive line coaches league-wide.
La'el Collins is entering a contract year. He hasn't exactly locked down the right tackle spot, at least not to the level that the organization has full confidence that he's the guy. The talent is there, but not necessarily the continued progression you'd like to see. What also makes this position interesting is that the previously mentioned Connor Williams took snaps at left tackle opposite Collins when Tyron Smith had a veterans day off during OTA's. This was an easy switch considering he spent three years as a starter at the position during his days at the University of Texas. Could this mean they are preparing to move Williams to right tackle if Collins isn't brought back in 2020? Putting Connor McGovern in line to secure the left guard spot? Only time will tell.
All the projected starters are under the age of 30. That means there's plenty of football left in these mammoth's, and a lot more lanes for Ezekiel Elliot to run through for the foreseeable future. Former Quarterback Tony Romo had the best season of his career once he finally got the offensive line he needed. Now with Dak Prescott just entering his prime, and youth plus experience on the line of scrimmage, this offense is set to be elite for quite a while.
How important is this unit? They set the tone for the entire team by mauling the opposing defensive line and controlling the clock. This allows your defense to be fresh at all times, especially in fourth quarters when games usually get tight in the NFL. These hogs are the first dominoes to fall and make life easier for their teammates. It starts in the trenches.
Established all-pros? The Cowboys offensive line has three. Reliable backups for depth purposes? They have several of those too. The identity of this team starts with the big boys up front. Offensive line coach Marc Colombo has all the tools he needs in his toolshed, and with the injury god's hopefully in their favor, this line has everything it needs to bully it's way back to the playoffs.
Report: Cowboys’ Travis Frederick Ready for Start of Training Camp
With the Dallas Cowboys opening training camp with their first practice on Saturday, July 27th in Oxnard, California, a lot of information is coming out regarding who will be available when they report.
It was already reported that Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence and Cornerback Byron Jones will be placed on the physically unable to practice (P.U.P.) list to start training camp. Now, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network is reporting that Travis Frederick will avoid the Non-Football Injury list (NFI) and be ready to report for the starting of training camp.
Very good news for the #Cowboys: All-Pro C Travis Frederick, who dealt with Guillain-Barré syndrome last year, is expected to be active for the start of training camp. He avoids NFI and is ready to go.
Frederick has been out of action for a year after being diagnosed with Guillen-Barre Syndrome during last year's training camp. Guillen-Barre is a disorder that can affect the peripheral neurological system. Basically, the neurological system that doesn't consist of the brain and the spinal cord, which is the central nervous system.
There was talk that Frederick might have been ready to go for the playoffs at the end of last season, but the team continued to hold him out in order to get him back 100% for 2019. It looks like the time has come for Frederick to regain his spot as the leader and lynch-pin of the offensive line.
While Joe Looney was effective in 2018, there's no doubt the team suffered a drop off from All-Pro Travis Frederick to career backup Looney. Getting Frederick back in the middle of the offensive line is the most significant upgrade the Dallas Cowboys could have made this offseason on either side of the football.
Frederick is one of the smartest players on the team and does a lot for Dak Prescott and the offensive line in terms of setting protections. For Dak Prescott, he'll be able to have a little more faith that the front of his pocket will hold up if he needs to step up to make a throw. Frederick will also help Connor Williams as the two work combo blocks against opposing interior defenders. Frederick will immediately improve the Dallas Cowboys red zone offense as they'll be able to get more of a push on the interior.
It was almost expected that this would be the case, but hearing it for certain should give the Dallas Cowboys and their fans a lot of optimism for what's to come in 2019. Travis Frederick returning to the starting lineup is a huge addition for a Dallas Cowboys offense that looks ready to roll in 2019.
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Training Camp Preview: Cornerback
The Dallas Cowboys have spent a lot of draft picks the last few years to build up their cornerbacks group. There is a lot of potential heading into 2019, but Dallas needs these young players to take the next step if they want to compete for a championship. This weekend's start to training camp will be an important part of the process.
Dallas' best move to help the cornerback position was switching Byron Jones back there in 2018 after a few seasons at safety. Jones went to his first Pro Bowl and has positioned himself for a big contract extension.
Byron is currently set to play 2019 on his fifth-year option of $6.27 million, which is a steal for a CB of his caliber. Whether or not the Cowboys allow him to enter unrestricted free agency next year, or get a new deal signed, will be something to watch for throughout the upcoming season.
Jones' future may be in question, but we at least know he'll be the team's top corner this season. None of the other Dallas CBs can enjoy that same certainty in 2019, as depth chart positioning and job security are all in flux right now.
Here is the current CB depth chart headed into training camp:
- Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie
- Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis
- Michael Jackson, Donovan Olumba
- C.J. Goodwin, Chris Westry
- Treston Decoud
Will this list hold as is, or will we some shifting over the five weeks of training camp and preseason?
The battle for snaps between Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis will be an intriguing ongoing storyline. Awuzie was the starter last year, and will hopefully make a big developmental leap in his third year.
But Anthony Brown has proven himself a capable player despite being just a 6th-round pick in 2016. Entering the final year of his rookie deal, Brown will certainly be pushing for a significant role this season to hopefully help his free agent marketability in 2020.
If things go like they did last year, both Awuzie and Brown will get plenty of playing time. The true enigma of this bunch is Jourdan Lewis, who is hoping to be more than just the number-four CB in 2019.
Though he was drafted a round later than Awuzie in 2017, Lewis was generally considered the superior talent by most draft analysts. He fell due to a domestic violence accusation a month before the draft for which he was eventually found not guilty.
Jourdan was looking good at the end of his rookie season, but the arrival of Kris Richard as Defensive Backs Coach last year seemed to cause a regression. Lewis only got in on a little over 18% of the total defensive snaps in 2018, while the top three all had 67% or higher.
Despite his few opportunities, Lewis still had one of the biggest plays of the year with his interception that sealed Dallas' stunning upset over the New Orleans Saints. His potential has been noted, with Coach Richard even calling him an "exception" to his general preference for bigger, stronger cornerbacks.
But even if the team likes Jourdan, can he beat Awuzie or Brown? Could he perhaps have more value in a trade, with two years left on that rookie deal, to a team in greater need at CB?
The idea of moving Lewis, which existed prior to the draft, gained steam when Dallas used a 5th-round pick this year acquire CB Michael Jackson out of Miami. He fits that prototypical build at corner, and perhaps the Cowboys are hoping he can show enough early to provide an adequate replacement if they want to trade Jourdan.
If not Jackson, prospect Donovan Olumba is another option. He nearly made the 53 last year but got squeezed out when Dallas only kept four cornerbacks. After a year on the practice squad, Olumba is back and could be ready for a roster spot.
Veteran C.J. Goodwin has bounced around the NFL since 2014 but has some real-game experience. If the young guys aren't in a position to be game-day active, perhaps he would be the best option. Dallas added him in the middle of the 2018 season and he was helping on special teams and as a reserve corner at the end of the year.
Undrafted rookie Chris Westry, listed at 6'4", is another intriguing player to watch in camp. That rare size is something you can't teach, and hopefully Richard can develop Westry enough to get something out of the physical gifts.
This should be a fun 2019 training camp at cornerback, with competition potentially at every spot on the depth chart except the very top. And while secure at number-one, even Byron Jones has his own question marks around his long-term future in Dallas.
We'll start getting some answers in just four more days!
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OTHER 2019 CAMP PREVIEWS
Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence and CB Byron Jones to Start 2019 Camp on PUP
The Dallas Cowboys will be missing two of their defensive leaders when they open 2019 training camp this Saturday. Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence and Cornerback Byron Jones will both start camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) List as they recover from offseason surgeries.
Lawrence, who got a new five-year contract in April, immediately underwent shoulder surgery once his deal was finalized. DeMarcus reportedly was waiting for contract negotiations to be completed before he had the procedure.
Jones had hip surgery in late May. He is playing 2019 on the fifth-year option from his original contract, and is no doubt hoping for his own long-term extension sometime in the near future.
Sources: DeMarcus Lawrence and Byron Jones will open Cowboys camp on PUP and won't practice in California https://t.co/jzWV5FjBO6 via @sportsdaydfw
Neither Lawrence or Jones, who are both coming of Pro Bowl seasons in 2018, are expected to be absent once the regular season starts in September. But either participating in this year's training camp is doubtful, and even preseason appearances are in question right now.
With DeMarcus out at DE, newcomers like Robert Quinn and Kerry Hyder will get plenty of chances to show their stuff. It's also a nice opportunity for Taco Charlton, assuming he's recovered from his own offseason surgery, to get some work against the first-team offensive line.
No Byron at CB will give Jourdan Lewis a nice opportunity to work with the starters as well. He was likely stuck at the 4th spot behind Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, and Anthony Brown but should now get more time on the field and against the best competition.
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