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Playoff Primer: Dallas Cowboys Offensive Tackles

Sean Martin



Tyron Smith, Giants

Its time for another edition of #PlayoffPrimer, and after looking at the Cowboys running backs and wide receivers, we'll move on to part of the best unit in the National Football League - Dallas' offensive line.

Specifically, we'll look at the tackle position, where I already wrote that the Dallas Cowboys may have found some solid depth with Emmett Cleary. The presumed starters in the playoffs though will be Tyron Smith and Doug Free.

Tyron Smith

You couldn't ask for a better starter at left tackle in the playoffs than Tyron Smith. The best LT in the league, Smith should be healthy for the Divisional Round after missing the second-half of the Lions game and all of week 17 against the Eagles.

A healthy Tyron Smith absolutely takes opposing teams' right defensive ends out of the game, and the Cowboys could see a few talented ones in Olivier Vernon,  Cliff Avril, and Ezekiel Ansah throughout the playoffs.

If you buy into narratives, some will tell you that Vernon - the Giants' premier free agent signing and edge rusher - has been the only defender to give Smith consistent trouble, but a closer look at the tape has shown that Tyron holds his own against not only Olivier Vernon but any rusher in the NFL - often times dominating the match up enough to get called for a few phantom holding calls.

Turn on the TV before the Cowboys kickoff this postseason, watch the offense come out onto the field, take note of #77 starting on the far-left side of the line - and then forget about him for the rest of the game.

Doug Free, Tyron Smith

Doug Free

I'm here to tell you that Doug Free is actually good at football. While many in Cowboys Nation disagree, Free is asked to stand out among first round picks like Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin. While he's far from as dominant as these other starters, Free is still an above-average player that does his job well on a consistent basis.

Defensive coordinators charged with the task of game planning against the Cowboys' great wall know that attacking Smith at LT is a lost cause, and they scheme their best defensive ends to attack Free - who consistently holds his own.

Like Tyron Smith, Doug Free will face tough match ups in the playoffs, but should be up for the challenge - sensing that his time in Dallas may be up well before the rest of this offensive line.

Thanks to this line, the Cowboys could be looking at a long stretch of dominance in the NFC, but Free's focus needs to be on putting together his best three games to raise the Lombardi Trophy with his teammates in Houston.

Free's primary focus in this regard should be on limiting penalties, as the entirety of the Dallas offense has shot themselves in the foot far too often over the final quarter of this season with untimely flags.

Emmett Cleary


As mentioned, I already broke down Cleary's game in the above post. To summarize, while you certainly want Tyron Smith taking every snap the rest of the way out at left tackle for Dallas, I would feel relatively comfortable with Cleary in an emergency situation.

The journeyman lineman made the most of the playing time he received over the past two weeks, and now will enter the playoffs with the Cowboys confident in his ability to be their only real backup option at tackle.

If he plays like he did throughout the Eagles game, Cleary could become an unsung hero should the unthinkable happen and Tyron Smith exits a playoff game due to injury.

My Playoff Primer series will continue up until the Divisional Playoffs, and we'll round out the offensive line by looking at the interior players next.

Tell us what you think about "Playoff Primer: Dallas Cowboys Offensive Tackles" 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 Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys NFC East Title Put on Hold with Redskins Win, Shutout Loss at Colts

Sean Martin



Cowboys NFC East Title Put on Hold with Redskins Win, Shutout Loss at Colts

For the first time since 2003, the Dallas Cowboys were shutout on Sunday at the Indianapolis Colts. Their five game winning streak snapped, the Cowboys also saw their chances at clinching the NFC East dashed before the late kickoffs. Needing both a Redskins and Eagles loss to win the division without the benefit of a win themselves, the Redskins kept their playoff hopes alive with a walk off field goal at the Jaguars.

Washington Quarterback Josh Johnson won his second start since 2013 with 151 yards and one touchdown. The Redskins aren't the only NFC East team playing with a backup QB, as the Eagles must once again rally around Nick Foles against the Rams to extend their shot at the playoffs on Sunday Night Football. 

The Cowboys certainly didn't deserve a celebration of any kind after their performance at the Colts. An emotional letdown after a win streak that featured triumphs over the Eagles twice, Redskins, and Saints, the Cowboys were slowed to a complete stop on offense while struggling fundamentally on defense.

Uncharacteristic missed tackles and lack of pressure on Colts Quarterback Andrew Luck allowed Indianapolis to turn a 10-0 halftime lead into an easy 23-0 win. Defending their home field, the Colts came out like a team still fighting for their playoff lives, while Dallas played like a team knowing two more chances at winning the division are still to come.

Instead of being able to watch and root against the Eagles tonight, the Cowboys can focus on not letting an embarrassing loss define a season that'll still end on a high note should they defeat the Buccaneers or Giants. A week 16 or 17 win automatically seals the division for the Cowboys, even with the Redskins improving to 7-7 moments before the Colts secured their shutout.

It was a masterful performance from Colts Defensive Coordinator Matt Eberflus, preparing his team against Scott Linehan's offense to disrupt the momentum of one of the league's hottest teams.

Praising the Redskins for defeating a Jaguars team the Cowboys handled 40-7 much earlier in the season is hardly the situation Cowboys Nation wants to be in right now, but the team still has everything in front of them once Sunday's sixth loss is put behind them.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys NFC East Title Put on Hold with Redskins Win, Shutout Loss at Colts" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Game Notes

IND 23, DAL 0: Cowboys Get Shut Out, Embarrassed by Colts

Jess Haynie



Is Dak Prescott's Relationship with Scott Linehan Broken?

The Dallas Cowboys must think they've already won the NFC East, because they looked like a team with nothing to play for today. The result was an embarrassing 23-0 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

The Cowboys were shut out for the first time since the 2003 season, which was Jason Witten's rookie year.

Dallas squandered a major time-of-possession advantage in the first half, finishing three drives with a blocked field goal, punt, and a failed 4th-and-1 play near the Colts' goal line. Indianapolis capitalized on their own drives and took a 10-0 lead into halftime.

The Colts got the ball back to start the third quarter and drove down for another touchdown. Down 17-0, Dallas responded with a weak drive and a punt. The game felt out of reach even then, with the Cowboys just looking flat from that point forward.

Ezekiel Elliott had 87 rushing yards 41 receiving for some empty production. Amari Cooper won't be winning any awards this week, held to just four catches for 32 yards.

Dak Prescott completed 62% of his passes for 206 yards. He was sacked three times and threw a late interception; an overthrown ball got tipped by the receiver and picked off on the team's final offensive series.

While the offense was especially bad today, the defense wasn't much better. Dallas surrendered 139 yards rushing yards and two touchdown to Colts RB Marlon Mack, who hadn't had a 100-yard game since October. Andrew Luck wasn't sacked and went virtually untouched the entire day.

The Cowboys could have taken the NFC East with a win, but they didn't come close. Hopefully this serves as a wake-up call with the postseason only a few weeks away.

Other Notes

  • With the Redskins defeating the Jaguars today, Dallas will have to wait until next week to try to clinch the NFC East. The Cowboys needed losses by both Washington and Philadelphia if they didn't win themselves. The Eagles are visiting the Rams tonight.
  • The Cowboys will get some softer competition to finish the year, hosting the Buccaneers next week and then going to play the Giants in Week 17.
  • With the Bears defeating the Packers today and moving to 10-4, they will likely stay the #3 seed in the playoffs. That means Dallas, assuming they do win the NFC East, will almost certainly be hosting the 5th-seeded Seahawks in the first round.
  • Jaylon Smith led the Cowboys with 11 tackles, but neither he or Leighton Vander Esch were making the big plays that we've grown accustomed to.
  • Xavier Woods had the highlight play on defense, delivering a perfect hit to dislodge the ball from Colts TE Eric Ebron and stop a potential big gain.
  • Blake Jarin and Dalton Schultz combined for seven catches for 68 yards; another week of increased TE production from what we've seen must of the year.
  • Fullback Jamize Olawale doesn't get many opportunities on offense, and he may not get more after dropping an open touchdown on the team's second drive of the day.

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Game Notes

Cowboys Can’t Finish Drives, Trailing Colts 10-0 at Halftime

Jess Haynie



Dak Prescott

The Cowboys have had no trouble moving the ball today, but they've failed to finish drives with points. Dallas is thus trailing the Indianapolis Colts 10-0 at halftime.

Dallas has had possession for over 19 minutes compared to just 10 for the Colts. But their three drives have ended with a blocked field goal, a failed 4th-and-1 play near the endzone, and a punt.

Ezekiel Elliott has 64 rushing yards and 23 receiving so far today. Dak Prescott has completed 12-of-19 for 106 yards, but has been sacked twice.

The offensive line continues to suffer from health issues. With Zack Martin already out and Connor Williams starting at right guard, Xavier Su'a-Filo left the game with an eye injury during the second quarter and will not return. Backup Adam Redmond is now playing.

The Cowboys can clinch the NFC East with a win in any of their final three games. They could also clinch today if the Redskins and Eagles lose. Washington is trailing 10-3 in Jacksonville at halftime, and the Eagles are visiting the Rams tonight.

Hopefully, Dallas will start showing up on the scoreboard in the second half.

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