The position battle at left guard might be the biggest and most pressing question facing the Dallas Cowboys this offseason. Since it seems that the Dallas Cowboys are committed to La’el Collins at right tackle, there is a hole to fill at left guard. Enter Jonathan Cooper and Chaz Green.
Check out Kevin Brady’s film study on Cooper.
Jonathan Cooper is a former first round draft pick who hasn’t been able to play to the level that his draft status requires. Cooper was an extremely athletic guard coming out of college, who was able to get out in space and lead the way in the running game.
Injuries have derailed his career to this point.
Now with his fourth team, Cooper is still trying to regain the form that made him the number seven overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals in 2011.
Chaz Green doesn’t come with as much draft hype as Cooper, but his third round status leaves him with expectations to start in the NFL.
At this point in his career he’s been functional in brief stints as a fill-in tackle, but has yet to find a way to stay on the field. Injuries took away his rookie season and most of 2016 as well. Sometimes, however, it just takes a bit of luck on the injury front for a career to take off. Just ask Sean Lee.
Cooper and Green figure to be the front-runners in the left guard competition. They have already received snaps with the first team offensive line.
What might suit the team best is a situational rotation of sorts.
Every team wants to have guys that you can plug into the lineup and can play in any situation, any down and distance, and at any time of the game. You want to set your lineup and roll, but that’s not how the NFL works.
I could see one of them becoming the regular player, but the team using both guys depending on the situation.
Let’s consider for a second that it’s late in the second quarter and the team is in the two-minute drill trying to score.
They’re in obvious passing mode, so why not have Green in the lineup as the left guard in obvious passing situations? He provides better pass protection with his experience at left and right tackle.
Green will need to show that he can hold up to the power rushes from interior defensive lineman. If he can, perhaps he’s your best option in passing situations.
On the flip side, say the team is in the fourth quarter and using their vaunted running game to milk the clock and not give the ball back. Looking at the two players we’re considering, who gives you the better run blocking?
On the interior, it’s Cooper. While he may not have the athleticism to be as effective in space anymore, he still has the physicality and strength to open holes for Ezekiel Elliott.
It’s unconventional to split snaps and have situational offensive lineman, and I’d argue that continuity would be a major deterrent to doing it this way. If the goal, however, is to get your best five lineman on the field at any given time, then Jason Garrett and the Cowboys coaching staff should consider this.
Garrett’s always talking about putting players in the best position to succeed. For Chaz Green and Jonathan Cooper, this just might be it.