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Rotation at Left Guard Could Be the Cowboys Best Option

John Williams

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Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys Sophomores: OL Chaz Green
Louis DeLuca / The Dallas Morning News

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.

G Jonathan Cooper Returns to Cowboys for 2017

Cleveland Browns offensive guard Jonathan Cooper (64) plays against the Cincinnati Bengals in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

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.

Dallas Cowboys: Which Starting Positions Are Up For Grabs? 1

25 SEP 2016: Dallas Cowboys Offensive Tackle Chaz Green (79) [20412] during a NFL game between the Chicago Bears and the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. Cowboys won 31-17. (Photo by Ray Carlin/Icon Sportswire)

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.

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I didn’t start out as a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quickly as I could. I grew up a Joe Montana fan when he was with the 49ers and followed him to the Chiefs, until we moved to Texas. I’ve now been a Fan of the Boys since the Dark Days of the Post-Aikman, Pre-Romo era of abysmal quarterback play, now relishing in more than a decade of franchise quarterbacking for America’s Team.

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5 Comments
  • Jess Haynie

    I love you, John, but this idea mortifies me. I think there’s a reason we haven’t seen this done through all the years of our football watching, and it’s that continuity and chemistry is such a vital part of offensive line play. I’d much rather live with the weaknesses that either guy may have in certain situations, like we have with Doug Free through the years, so that they can build their confidence and mojo with rest of the starting line.

    • John Williams

      Yeah, I don’t disagree. I’m a huge fan of continuity. With the Coaching staff. At positions where chemistry is important. It’s the one argument against this, even for me.

    • John Williams

      Oh, and I love you too.

  • https://InsideTheStar.com/ Bryson Treece

    I have to agree with @jesshaynie:disqus on this one. There is no substitute for continuity. Even a lesser player can be a valuable part of the whole just because the men on either side of him know what he’s going to do and when he’s going to do it. Having said that, continuity along the line isn’t important on every play. Some plays, the line is designed to break down. There is some opportunity there for nontraditional things like this.

    • John Williams

      Yeah totally. It’s unconventional and unlikely to occur, and I agree that continuity is huge, especially along the O-line. Continuity is the one thing that would keep me from this to be honest. Just feel like there is a way to get both guys on the field and to play to their strengths.

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Sean’s Scout: RB Rod Smith Proving Valuable Offensive Threat

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: RB Rod Smith Proving Valuable Offensive Threat

The Cowboys have just one more game to get through without their star running back Ezekiel Elliott, but Alfred Morris and Rod Smith deserve a ton of credit for the way they’ve been able to fill in out of the backfield for Zeke Elliott. Throughout the time Elliott has missed though, the Cowboys have lacked the explosive plays on offense that he can provide – until Rod Smith was given an opportunity last week at the Giants.

Smith complimented Morris exceptionally well, running with quickness and power to prove his case for more of a role on offense behind Elliott moving forward. It was the Ohio State product’s consecutive touchdowns of 81 yards through the air and 15 yards on the ground that sealed the game for the Cowboys in week 14.

Here is a closer look at Rod Smith’s performance from last week in this latest Sean’s Scout.

Smith3 – Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

 

The Cowboys offensive line was dominant as always against a tough New York defensive front, and this first play is a great look at their execution in space and on the move. Rod Smith’s decisiveness when hitting the hole with speed and balance was the first thing I noticed on the game tape.

The best thing Smith does on this play comes at the second level, where running backs can truly make a difference in Dallas. As RG Zack Martin rides his man out of the play entirely, he gets in front of Smith who is seeing the play develop straight ahead. With his long strides, Smith is able to smoothly get through traffic and continue accelerating up field through arm tackles for a big gain.

Smith2 – Streamable

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These same traits are seen with Rod Smith as a pass catcher – something he does effortlessly to also help fill the void left by Elliott. Watch how quickly Smith commits to his angle up the field after catching this dump pass from Dak Prescott, attacking a defender that has the angle on him after the catch.

Rod subtly leans to the right just enough to make the defender hesitate long enough to allow his burst to evade him and gain extra yards falling forward.

Smith4 – Streamable

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Smith essentially does the same thing without the ball in his hands here, on his 81 yard catch and run for a touchdown. Setting up the safety out of the slot to be beat across his face, Smith separates from him at the stem and then does a great job getting depth on his route into the vacated middle of the field. With blockers to help him reach the end zone, Smith turns this busted coverage by the Giants into the game’s biggest play.

Smith1 – Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

 

This last play I chose to show is probably the least well-blocked attempt for Smith out of the ones in this Sean’s Scout, but there is still a lot to like about what Rod does here with the ball in his hands.

The Giants might be a two-win football team, but they still have marquee players up front, particularly DE Olivier Vernon. Smith does well here to keep his feet moving as he cuts this play to the backside. Vernon does well to limit the potential gain on this play by staying away from the block of Jason Witten, as Smith is taken down by Darian Thompson.

The numbers the Giants had to commit to stopping the run was still a huge reason why Prescott had a career day throwing the football, and Rod Smith’s readiness to step in at RB was a deciding factor in getting Dallas to 7-6.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Proving to be one of the Dallas Cowboys most valuable players, considering his cost (under contract through 2018), and ability to contribute on special teams and offense, Rod Smith is the perfect RB3 for this team.

Smith is not elite in any one area, and is not a prototypical RB from a physical standpoint, but his contributions as a runner, pass catcher, and blocker could remain critical to the Cowboys’ hopes of reaching the playoffs behind this offense – even when Ezekiel Elliott is back in the fold.

Tell us what you think about “Sean’s Scout: RB Rod Smith Proving Valuable Offensive Threat” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Dallas Cowboys

Rod Smith Vs Alfred Morris: Who’s The Cowboys Real RB1?

Brian Martin

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Rod Smith Vs Alfred Morris: Who's Cowboys' Real RB1?

The Dallas Cowboys are less than a week away from welcoming back their talented Pro Bowl running back Ezekiel Elliott, but until then they still have a game to play against the Oakland Raiders. That means we will have one more week of Alfred Morris and Rod Smith handling the workload, but which RB is sitting at the top of the Cowboys depth chart?

Unfortunately, this is exactly the type of decision that can end up winning or losing a game. Both Alfred Morris and Rod Smith have had their moments during Ezekiel Elliott’s absence, but neither one of them have really distanced themselves from the other. So, should Rod Smith or Alfred Morris receive the majority of the workload against the Raiders Sunday?

A Case for Rod Smith

RB Rod Smith and QB Dak PrescottRod Smith might just have had is coming out party last week against the New York Giants. Against their divisional rival, in what was a must win game for the Cowboys, Smith rushed for 47 yards on six carries and added another 113 yards through the air on five catches. He also found himself in the end zone twice, once on a rushing touchdown and the other on a receiving touchdown.

You may or may not agree, but I believe that “Lightning” Rod Smith was largely responsible for igniting the Cowboys offense and helping them pull away from the Giants last Sunday. He accounted for over 160 total yards and two touchdowns by himself and didn’t receive the majority of his playing time until later in the game.

Rod Smith certainly has traits that make him a more desirable RB over Alfred Morris. First off, he is a more complete back. He is better in pass protection and at catching the ball out of the backfield. But, he is also starting to show up in the running game and is averaging 4.5 yards a carry this season. His size (6’3″, 235) also makes him a better short yardage back, although I wish he would deliver more of a blow at the end of his runs.

A Case for Alfred Morris

RB Alfred MorrisAlthough there’s nothing particularly special that stands out about Alfred Morris, he has proven time and time again he is more than capable of carrying the workload. He has received the majority of the workload during Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension and has performed pretty well. In fact, he is averaging 5 yards a carry this season, which is better than any other RB on the Cowboys roster, including Elliott.

Alfred Morris has looked pretty good this season and is playing with more of a spring in his step than I have seen from him in probably his entire career. Last Sunday against the Giants he received the the majority of the workload and finished the game with 19 carries for 62 yards. Not particularly spectacular, but the week prior he did rush for 127 yards on 27 carries in the victory over the Washington Redskins.

Like I mentioned earlier, Morris is a tried-and-true RB in the NFL and is at his best when he can continue to pound the rock and wear down opposing defenses. That is what he did against the Redskins, but he has his limitations as well. Despite his years in the league, he still struggles in pass protection and is limited in what he can do in the passing game. But, he does seem to have the trust of the Cowboys coaching staff.

✭✭✭✭✭

Personally, I would like to see more of Rod Smith this coming Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. I really like what I’ve seen from him in both the running game and in the passing game. I just think he is a more dangerous and versatile weapon then Alfred Morris. His presence on the field really opens up what the Cowboys can do offensively.

I don’t mean any disrespect to Alfred Morris at all. I just think that Rod Smith has proven he is a more dangerous offensive weapon of the two. I don’t know if the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff will agree or not, but I truly believe Rod Smith could once again be the X factor against the Oakland Raiders.

Of course, both Rod Smith and Alfred Morris will have to take the back seat once Ezekiel Elliott returns. So, this discussion really only has any credibility for this week in yet another must win situation against the Oakland Raiders.

Who do you like better… Rod Smith or Alfred Morris?

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La’el Collins’ Toughness And Availability Earning High Praise

Brian Martin

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La'el Collins' Toughness And Availability Earning High Praise 1

The decision by the Dallas Cowboys to move La’el Collins from left guard to right tackle was met by some skepticism by quite a few members of Cowboys Nation during the off-season. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was one of those skeptical of the move, but I’m not afraid to admit he has exceeded my expectations.

In all honesty, I always believed that La’el Collins’ best position in the NFL is on the interior of the offense of line as a guard. I thought he could use his strength and athleticism to his advantage when working in a phone booth against slower and less athletic defensive tackles. That’s not to say I didn’t think he would make a good right tackle, I just thought he had Pro Bowl potential as a guard.

Strangely enough, Collins has probably put together a Pro Bowl caliber season in his first season starting at the right tackle position for the Cowboys. He has become an upgrade over the previous starter Doug Free, and is really starting to earn high praise from the brass. Stephen Jones in particular has been impressed with Collins, especially considering how he has played after missing two full weeks of practice.

Mark Lane on Twitter

DallasCowboys COO Stephen Jones told @1053thefan La’el Collins has answered the bell after his contract extension.

I personally agree with everything Stephen Jones said about La’el Collins. I’ve really enjoyed watching his progression this season, but I have been really impressed how he played the last two weeks after missing so much practice.

You might not of known, but Collins has missed two full weeks of practice due to a herniated disc in his back. This is put his availability to play against the Washington Redskins and New York Giants in jeopardy, but somehow he has toughened up and played considerably well.

This unfortunately will be something he has to continue to battle through the rest of the season, but I’m not going to bet against him playing. He absolutely makes this offensive line better and I would hate to see Chaz Green or Byron Bell back on the field after the way they played as feel-ins.

La’el Collins has without a doubt earned my respect and I think it’s about time we all recognize the player he is turning into. I know the Dallas Cowboys appreciate all that he does and believe that his recent contract extension is money well spent.

What do you think about La’el Collins?

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