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Playoff Primer: Dallas Cowboys Interior Offensive Linemen

Sean Martin



Zack Martin, Giants
AP Photo / James D Smith

While it is accurate to say that the Dallas Cowboys offensive line is the best in football from Tyron Smith down to Doug Free, the true greatness of these Space Cowboys is found at guard and center.

As I continue my Playoff Primer series, we'll wrap up the offensive line by looking at the embarrassment of riches the Cowboys have on the interior. For my breakdown of the offensive tackles, check out "Playoff Primer: Dallas Cowboys Offensive Tackles".

Let's start in the middle.

Travis Frederick

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Travis Frederick

Not only is Travis Frederick one of the most talented centers in the league, but he is one of the smartest, making him the perfect center-man for this star-studded offensive line. Perhaps Frederick hasn't gotten enough credit for working with rookie QB Dak Prescott, who has noticeably been making plenty of adjustments at the line before receiving a snap from Frederick.

Once thought of as a reach when he was drafted in the first round by Dallas in 2013, Frederick has proven to be an anchor in the middle for the Cowboys. When it comes to the 2016 playoffs, he will have an even better chance to prove his worth, as the team's the Cowboys may face all present tough interior defenders.

Whether it is the 3-4 look of the Green Bay Packers or another match up with Damon Harrison and the New York Giants, Frederick is going to have his hands full throughout the playoffs - but should be up to the challenge as a blocker that excels with leverage and relatively consistent short-range power.

Long live the beard.

Ronald Leary

Where would the Dallas Cowboys be without Ronald Leary? Once seen as an off season distraction when he held out over losing his job to La'el Collins, Leary is now the starter this team needs at left guard. A veteran that can be trusted, Leary has the luxury of playing between Frederick and Tyron Smith - but individually excels as a run and pass blocker.

Leary has handled his new situation as a starter like a professional, and even if it just to get paid elsewhere for 2017, he can be a huge part of hopefully guiding the 2016 Cowboys deep into the playoffs.

Leary did not play in week 17 against the Eagles, and had at times before this looked slightly off his game. Hopefully the two weeks off will rejuvenate Dallas' starter at LG, who just consistently blocks any defender thrown at him throughout the day without a worry.

Zack Martin

Fun fact: I own a Zack Martin jersey.

Also a fun fact: Martin is arguably the best guard in the NFL. While Ron Leary puts in work as a reliable left guard, Martin absolutely dominates at the right guard position for the Cowboys on every snap - and has since his rookie year in 2014.

Just watch the holes that Ezekiel Elliott ran through to become this season's rushing champion, and you'll often see a blue #70 in front of him paving a path to the second level.

Martin is not only an elite run blocker that will thrive this postseason, but he limits pass rushers as soon as he gets his hands on them - a trait that is often thrown around when discussing linemen, but rarely seen at the quality that Martin exhibits.

Perhaps the biggest difference for the Cowboys going into the 2016 playoffs compared to 2014 is that their workhorse back is much more well-rested. If Zeke Elliott is going to eat his way to Houston and Super Bowl LI like we all think he's capable of, he will owe a ton of credit (and maybe another ATV?) to Zack Martin.

Jonathan Cooper


My fellow Staff Writer and New Jersey resident Kevin Brady already did most of the leg work right here when it comes to breaking down what the recently signed Jonathan Cooper can bring to the Cowboys as a backup guard.

Cooper, a former first round pick, has yet to settle in to a long-term role in the NFL - bouncing around as a guy that always had the potential but lacked the film to match it at this level. Even still, as a backup here in Dallas, Cooper is one of the best players the Cowboys could have brought in to potentially have to fill in at either guard position.

If called upon in the playoffs, I do worry that Jonathan Cooper may fall behind as a run blocker, with a limited amount of time to learn Scott Linehan's zone blocking scheme. With enough experience and strength though, Cooper is likely as good of a backup lineman as there is to be found on any team currently in the playoffs.

Joe Looney

Of all of the talented guards and centers the Cowboys employ, swing man Joe Looney is probably the one you least want to see have to play in these playoffs. Looney does have some game experience that Cooper does not at left guard for the Cowboys, but this experience has only shown that Looney will struggle greatly throughout the course of a game.

Between the occasional good reps, Looney will get overpowered with bad technique, and more importantly get beat across his face on running plays - a major error in executing the zone scheme.

Looney's value in Dallas comes from the fact that he can play both guard and center, but since we opened this Playoff Primer praising Travis Frederick and all of his awesomeness, Looney will likely serve as just an emergency guard this postseason.

La'el Collins

The X-Factor: La'el Collins

I'm fascinated to see what the Dallas Cowboys do with La'el Collins in the playoffs. Back to work at practice, Collins doesn't have to worry about preparing himself to start at left guard - as Ron Leary has that spot secured.

Instead, the Cowboys are going to have to get creative with how they utilize this first-round talent that they signed after the 2015 draft.

One area this team is thin at right now is tight end, and this offense sorely misses a versatile TE like Geoff Swaim that can block on the edge and present a threat in the passing game. While Collins gives the Cowboys virtually nothing as a pass catcher, lining him up in "Jumbo" sets as a tight end is almost unfair to edge defenders.

With Elliott in the backfield and Collins on the edge, defenses will have to change their entire look, which could lead to more chances for Dez Bryant and other WRs in single coverage. Collins' best trait is his ability to move and block on the run, so I also wouldn't be surprised to see him out in front of those always well-times toss sweeps.

It could be a very fun playoff run for La'el Collins, but his role and overall health is uncertain, making him this unit's x-factor.

As you enjoy Wild Card Weekend, make sure to stay posted to Inside The Star as I round out the offense in this series before moving on to the defense. 

Before kickoff at AT&T Stadium on January 15th, Playoff Primer will preview every position on the Cowboys, and you can discuss any of these articles with me on Twitter @ShoreSportsNJ

Tell us what you think about "Playoff Primer: Dallas Cowboys Interior Offensive Linemen" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Pleasant NJ, no we're not how you think we are. Host of "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. You may @ me: @SeanMartinNFL.

Player News

Cowboys Trade for FB Jamize Olawale from Raiders

Jess Haynie



Jamize Olawale, Raiders

Less than a week after the Cowboys lost fullback Keith Smith to the Raiders in free agency, the two teams have worked out a trade to send FB Jamize Olawale from Oakland to Dallas.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

Fullback trade! The #Raiders are sending FB Jamize Olawale to the #Cowboys, sources say. Dallas has its fullback, one who was with Oakland since 2012.

To facilitate the trade, the Cowboys will send their fifth-round pick (173rd overall) to the Raiders for their sixth-round pick (192nd), moving back just 19 spots.

In return, Dallas not only brings in a veteran replacement at FB but a player they already know.

Jamize Olawale was an undrafted rookie free agent of the Cowboys in 2012. Despite a strong showing in that preseason, Dallas did not have room for him on the roster. He was on the team's practice squad until December, when Oakland poached him.

Since then, Olawale has been a regular roleplayer in the Raiders' offense. He's missed just six games since 2013.

Jamize brings more offensive firepower to the FB position than Keith Smith had. He's scored at least one touchdown in each of the last three seasons. He can be effective both running and receiving.

Through the trade, Dallas picks up the final year of Olawale's current contract. It calls for a $1.5 million base salary in 2018.

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Player News

Dallas Cowboys to Re-Sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur for 2018

Sean Martin



Dallas Cowboys to Re-Sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladoucer for 2018 1

Continuity is the key to good special teams play in the NFL. Already losing long-time Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia to the Raiders - who promptly snatched ST aces Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber in free agency - the Dallas Cowboys have announced their intentions to re-sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur for the 2018 season.

Returning on a one-year deal, the fan favorite Ladouceur will be back to do what he does best in cleanly executing almost every special teams snap for Chris Jones or Dan Bailey to handle.

Todd Archer on Twitter

Long snapper L.P. Ladouceur will re-sign with the Cowboys on Monday, according to sources, on a one-year deal. He will be in his 14th season with the franchise. Only Jason Witten, Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Bill Bates and Mark Tuinei will have more years of...

While Jones has improved as the Cowboys' punter with each passing season, Kicker Dan Bailey actually enters 2018 as another question mark on this unit. With the general belief around the team being that Bailey will be just fine moving forward, the Cowboys will no longer have to worry about who handles long snaps next year either.

Dallas Cowboys to Re-Sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladoucer for 2018

Dallas Cowboys LS L.P. Ladouceur

L.P. Ladouceur is back in the silver and blue, and in this moment, everything can be alright with the world.

Tell us what you think about "Dallas Cowboys to Re-Sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur for 2018" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Player News

Report: Raiders Sign Former Cowboys LB Kyle Wilber

Kevin Brady



Cowboys Headlines - Dallas Cowboys Re-Sign Linebacker Kyle Wilber

A Free Agency period filled with departures continued for the Dallas Cowboys today, as the Oakland Raiders have reportedly signed the now-former Cowboys LB Kyle Wilber.


The Raiders have signed LB Kyle Wilber:

Wilber has been with the Cowboys since 2012, and has played in all 16 games four of the past five seasons. Most of his time has come on special teams, but he did provide solid linebacker depth for the Cowboys since joining the team.

Dallas has now lost both Wilber and Anthony Hitchens, depleting their linebacker depth even further over the last couple weeks.

The Raiders have now signed two key special teams contributors for the Cowboys in Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber this offseason. Hopefully Dallas can replace these types of "replacement level" players throughout the rest of the offseason, especially during the NFL Draft.

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