With training camp underway, it’s a good time to start breaking down the Dallas Cowboys roster position by position to see what this 2021 bunch will look like and which players are competing to make the team. Dallas had a lot of injuries a year ago, forcing a number of young players and reserves to step into more prominent roles. They also drafted 11 players, meaning there will be a ton of competition for the final roster.
In addition, America’s Team will be doing this in front of the entire world, since they were chosen as the featured team on HBO’s Hard Knocks. With that being said, let’s take a look at the offensive linemen vying to make the 53-man Dallas Cowboys roster this year.
Dallas Cowboys Roster Breakdown: Offensive Line
The Locks | Dallas Cowboys Roster
Tyron Smith, Connor Williams, Tyler Biadasz, Zack Martin, La’el Collins, Connor McGovern
Health is Key
If this bunch is healthy, it’s a good-looking group, with a tremendous combination of experience and youth with upside. However, health wasn’t on the offensive line’s side last season. It started with the announcement of Travis Frederick’s retirement over the summer, and starters continued to drop from there.
La’el Collins never saw the field, and Tyron Smith was banged up from the start before losing his season just two weeks into the season. Zack Martin missed six games with the first significant injury of his career, and veteran backups Cameron Erving and Joe Looney also missed time.
If there is one thing to be optimistic about from the 2020 campaign, it was the young players stepping up. Williams has been the least appreciated of the Cowboys’ starters over the years, but he was the only guy on this offense to play every snap last year. He was as consistent as we’ve ever seen, whether it was starting next to a rookie center or a second-year undrafted tackle.
Biadasz was well on his way to holding onto the center job for good after Looney went down, but a pre-game injury saw that come to a halt. Still, he looked good in his time last season, and McGovern looked solid in his first NFL action of his career too. If this bunch stays healthy, it’s going to be a really good year for this offense. Add to that the possibility of the younger players taking another step forward in their development, and it could be all the more special.
Dallas Cowboys Roster Breakdown
Fighting For a Spot | Dallas Cowboys Roster
Ty Nsekhe, Brandon Knight, Josh Ball, Terence Steele, Mitch Hyatt, Matt Farniok
Is Nsekhe a lock?
There are a few in this bunch that could be on the list above, but I’m very interested to see how the competition plays out. Nsekhe is an experienced tackle that’s held up throughout his career when being pushed into the starting lineup.
Ball has a strong chance to handle the swing tackle position in the future and is the best athlete of any of the reserve options. I’m still intrigued with Steele as well. He showed some very promising traits during the Senior Bowl practices in 2020 but had no business playing as a rookie. If his confidence isn’t too damaged from being forced into action a year ago, he could continue to develop into a reliable option. I’m also not giving up on Mitch Hyatt. There’s untapped potential for him to be groomed into an NFL lineman as well.
That’s four options at tackle, and Dallas probably doesn’t keep more than three behind Smith and Collins. It will take an excellent camp from Ball, Steele, and Hyatt for Dallas to leave Nsekhe off the final roster, but it’s not an impossible scenario.
Is Knight a lock?
I actually came closer to putting Knight in the group above than Nsekhe. I think he could honestly push to be the third guard on this team if Dallas can get good enough play from the tackles to keep from having to move him back again.
His build is a much better fit inside, and while no one is going to give him a ton of credit for the job he did at tackle a year ago, I’d point out that he wasn’t penalized once a year ago. That’s saying something for a player that doesn’t have the physical gifts to consistently win in space. Still, with the Cowboys more likely to go heavy at tackle than on the interior, he’s no guarantee either. If a player like Farniok can have a strong camp, his ability to play center could be what pushes him above Knight.
Yes, McGovern can play center, but with Williams in a contract year, the Cowboys are likely to give McGovern as much time as possible behind him to get an idea of what they have in him.
Practice Squad Options | Dallas Cowboys Roster
Eric Smith, Braylon Jones
It’s not impossible to believe that one of these two could push to be in the top group, but there is just too much game experience ahead of Smith and Jones. Smith has bounced around a bit, while Jones was the only rookie free agent Dallas signed on the offensive line.
If they are in Dallas come week one, it’s probably on the practice squad. This could also be the destination for Hyatt, Steele, or Farniok, but those guys will have a tougher time getting through waivers.
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