In their season opener against the New York Giants, the Dallas Cowboys imposed their will on offense. And while offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and quarterback Dak Prescott stole the headlines, the Cowboys offensive line was as dominant as ever.
In particular, right tackle La’el Collins had one of the better days of his career both in pass protection and as a run blocker. And while improvement in his game is the main reason for his success last Sunday, there’s no question that the competition level this offensive line faced played a part as well.
This week against the Washington Redskins, that competition level should be a bit higher. At least on paper. Washington has invested a good number of assets into their defensive front in recent years, essentially going after anyone who’s played under Nick Saban in college.
Their defensive line is wildly impressive when you take a look at the names they are able to deploy: such as Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Caleb Brantley, and Matt Ioannidis. Yet, their production as a defensive line hasn’t been nearly as strong.
Washington’s run defense finished 28th in DVOA in 2018, and after one week of football they currently sit at 16th in those same rankings. They also ranked 29th in adjusted line yards a year ago. Of course, a defensive line does more than just defend the run, but their pass rushing numbers aren’t too pretty either.
Though they did have a decent sack percentage last season, their edge pass rushing talent outside of Ryan Kerrigan leaves much to be desired. Washington tried to fix their edge spot opposite Kerrigan by drafting the highly touted Montez Sweat, but he is still very young and has to grow as a player.
Still, this is a really talented unit. As a front seven, the Redskins have one of the higher defensive ceilings in the entire league. Even if Allen is forced to miss the game due to injury, having someone like Tim Settle or Caleb Brantley behind him showcases the incredible depth this team has on the defensive line. At least from a talent standpoint, if nothing else.
If there’s one matchup to really watch for this week, it’s on the right side of that offensive line.
Ryan Kerrigan has given La’el Collins issues in their past meetings, but now that he has shown consistent improvement since the middle of 2018, Collins should be up to the task on Sunday. Quarterback Dak Prescott’s biggest issue in the pocket has been his ability to sense and escape pressure from the right side, putting increased emphasis on Collins locking down Kerrigan this week.
The Cowboys offensive linemen were back to their old ways against the Giants in the season opener, but they’ll need to be even better to put on a similar performance this week in Washington.