It all starts in the trenches. That’s where the Dallas Cowboys were a big disappointment in 2020, especially on the offensive line. Tyron Smith, La’el Collins, and Zack Martin missed 36 games combined last season and the Cowboys offense struggled mightily because of it.
Entering the 2021 season, the health of the offensive line is of extreme importance when factoring in the Cowboys just paid Dak Prescott a ton of money and Ezekiel Elliott is looking to bounce back from the worst season of his career.
“We believe that both Tyron and La’el and Zack are going to come into this season as good as we’ve seen them in a long time,” Jones said. “They’re healthy, they’re over their injuries. We feel very optimistic with what they can do. It’s a huge plus that they’ve really done amazing after they had their injuries. They’ve rehabbed from them, and we feel like they’re ready to roll, and they’re not only going to have a great year this year but several years to come.”
Missing time has become far too regular for Smith. Before being out for 14 games due to a neck injury last season, he missed three games in each of the previous four seasons after being on the shelf for just one game in his first five seasons. He’s still one of the best left tackles in the NFL when healthy, but this alarming pattern should make the Cowboys look for depth at the tackle position at some point in the draft even if he is healthy for the entire season.
Collins signed a five-year, $50 million dollar deal with $35 million in guaranteed money just before the 2019 season, and he delivered. He looked like one of the better right tackles in the league, prompting some to call him a Pro Bowl snub. His hip injury does raise some eyebrows as they can be a tricky thing to handle, but assuming he’ll stay healthy he’ll keep left defensive ends out of Prescott’s face more times than not.
Martin was an ironman during his first six seasons. He played in 94 out of a possible 96 games (missed two games in 2018) and established himself as the league’s best guard. Before he went down with a calf injury last season, Martin displayed his incredible flexibility by playing right tackle as well, making a case for himself as the best overall offensive lineman in the game. His availability will be critical as an anchor on the interior which he’s done since he was drafted in 2014.
Undrafted free agents Terence Steele and Brandon Knight got much-needed experience in 2020, but the hope is that they are in reserved roles once the season starts in September. If Smith, Collins, and Martin avoid the trainer’s table, they have a good shot at putting the Cowboys offensive line back at the top with the best units in football.