2020 was a disastrous year for the Dallas Cowboys offensive line.
Before any games were even played, All Pro center Travis Frederick decided to retire from the game. He had a successful career to be proud of, and luckily got out of the game with his health intact, but there’s no question it set the 2020 version of the Cowboys back a bit.
Then, quickly, the Cowboys lost both starting tackles for the year in Tyron Smith and La’el Collins. To top it all off, All Pro guard Zack Martin was also lost for the season due to injury.
Like I said, disastrous.
The lone bright spot across the group was the one guy who has caught incredible amounts of criticism from the fanbase during his first few years in the league. Left guard Connor Williams started every game of the 2020 season, missing just one snap the entire year. He did this despite being banged up at different times, and while being the only preseason starter remaining most weeks.
Despite a knee injury forcing him into locker room at one point Sunday, Cowboys LG Connor Williams played all 70 offensive snaps in win over Eagles. Williams has played 1,062 of offense’s 1,063 snaps in 2020. Only missed snap came when his left shoe slipped off in season opener.
Williams, who has notably struggled against bigger defensive tackles due to his slighter frame, has clearly bulked up since entering the league. I’ve also noticed him anchor a bit better with his lower half this season, and resist the urge to lunge at pass rushers, allowing himself to stay square rather than getting his head over his toes.
Below is a good example of where he’s improved.
Connor Williams eats a thunderous right hook to the face, but maintains his balance, refits his hands and wins the rep. #Cowboys pic.twitter.com/Ol9hge3U1T
As the great John Owning points out, Williams gets smacked across the head here, and actually does let himself get a bit out in-front and off balance. However, instead of getting swum over and embarrassed like he did at times his rookie season, Williams gathers himself, keeps his shoulders square, takes a quick kick-step, and re-engages the defender.
The result is an excellent pass protection rep, rather than quick interior pressure in the face of Dak Prescott.
Connor Williams is far from perfect. He still does get overpowered at times, and certainly sticks out in comparison to the guard who’s usually on the other side of him. But if Connor Williams is your fourth or fifth best offensive lineman, you got a heck of a unit upfront.
There was a lot of chatter that Williams may lose his job prior to the season, but I think his 2020 performance earned him that left guard spot again in 2021.