This is exactly what the doctor ordered. All-Pro Center Travis Frederick, who battled a shoulder injury and a scary battle with Guillain-Barre Syndrome which forced him to miss all of 2018, will reportedly be ready for the start of the 2019 season.
Frederick went from being a head-scratching pick by most in the 2013 draft to the best player in the league at his position. He's been a pro bowler every year he's been on the field (2014-2017), a first-team all-pro (2014, 2016) and a second-team all-pro (2015). A quarterbacks worst fear is pressure from the middle, and with Frederick on track for 2019, Dak Prescott can sleep a little easier.
While center is at the very bottom of positions people value, it's actually one of the most important. It's the “quarterback” of your offensive line, just like a middle linebacker on defense. Frederick makes the initial protection calls based upon the positioning of defensive linemen and linebackers. He's the eyes of the unit, and with fellow all-pro line mates Tyron Smith and Zack Martin with him, the Cowboys offensive line can get back to being the best in the NFL.
Even though he didn't see any field action in 2018, Frederick didn't let that stop him from advancing his game from a mental perspective.
“I see the game a little bit differently than I did before. A lot of times during the season you are so focused on your technique and focused on what it takes physically to get your job done, you don't get a great chance to advance mentally. And a lot of times you do that during the offseason, you do your best to do that. But to get to see real live looks all the time and see the way defenses are disguising things and what kind of coverages they're moving to using more normally, I think was really beneficial to me. And I've seen the benefits of that already in OTAs,” Frederick said.
The impact of Frederick effects several areas. First, as mentioned earlier, it keeps pressure from getting to Dak Prescott up the middle, which quarterbacks hate. Knocking a quarterback off his spot and forcing him outside the pocket sets up defensive ends to have a sack party at will. Your offense will not be able to gain any kind of rhythm in the passing game, putting most of the load on your running back. Being one-dimensional will get you beat every Sunday.
Next, having strength on the interior of your offensive line is vital in short yardage. When running backs are forced to bounce runs to the outside it sets them up to get creamed by linebackers, defensive ends, and corners. Ideally, the way you want to attack is up to the middle between the tackles with a short down and distance to go. So Frederick being dominate at center, and with help from all-pro Zack Martin and Connor Williams at the guard positions, Ezekiel Elliott can keep the chains moving on a regular basis.
Lastly, it disrupts the gameplan of both sides of the ball for the opposing team. Having a powerful offensive line that can keep producing first downs allows you to methodically wear down a defense. The longer they are on the field the more frustrated they'll become, and then the fatigue factor kicks in, both mentally and physically. Simultaneously, you keep the offense of your opponent on the sidelines. This eliminates any rhythm that could have been gained, virtually making them sitting ducks for your own defense. Frederick's value goes way beyond his own individual dominance.
Training camp will be the final test to see if Frederick is back to being the anchor of the offensive line. Film study and working out is one thing, but strapping on the pads is another. If he can do that, and that's still an if, at this point, the possibilities for the new look Cowboys offense increase tremendously.
Dallas has added more firepower to the offense with the trade for Amari Cooper in 2018, the return of Jason Witten, drafting Tony Pollard, and the signing of Randall Cobb. While those moves may get the headlines, having your all-pro center back, who's essentially the quarterbacks best friend, can't be valued enough. Football is a chemistry game more than any other, well class is presumably back in session, Professor Travis Frederick is at your service. Interior defensive linemen should be afraid, very afraid.