The offseason practices are in the rearview mirror as the Cowboys are heading towards training camp, which begins on July 24 in Oxnard, Calif.
That's usually the place where many of the questions regarding this team start to get answered.
The staff writers at DallasCowboys.com – Rob Phillips, David Helman, Nick Eatman and Bryan Broaddus – are attempting to answer 20 pressing questions as the team gets ready for camp and the 2017 season.
Today, we continue the series discussing how the Cowboys' decorated offensive line will adjust following Ronald Leary's free-agent departure and Doug Free's retirement.
4) 20 Questions: Do Cowboys Still Have Most Dominant Offensive Line in NFL?
Broaddus:If this group had just lost Doug Free and replaced him with La'el Collins, I would have said no question. Oakland doesn't have the athletes that Dallas has but Derek Carr doesn't get touched and that's impressive to watch. Tennessee is right there as well and the way they build their front. Like everyone in the league I am interested to see how things go at left guard. My concern is if Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick have to cover for a guy and it takes away from their own play. Ronald Leary was dependable, and whomever fills his shoes can't be a liability or defensive coordinators will create matchups to attack that spot.
Helman:I've got to say no until we see these guys in action. I firmly believe that Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin are the best in the game at their respective positions. But this group lost two of its starters from the last year. Yes, La'el Collins has starting experience, but he is now making a transition to an entirely new position. I have a lot of optimism that Collins will be dependable at right tackle, but I want to see it before I believe it. Meanwhile, it's hard to believe that whoever starts at left guard – whether it's Jonathan Cooper, Joe Looney or Chaz Green – will be better than the highly underrated Ron Leary. Don't get me wrong: this is still one of the NFL's best units, with three of the best players in the league. But I can't say right now that they're better across the board than Oakland until I see what they have at right tackle and left guard.
Eatman: I don't know if that's the case right now. But the good thing is, we'll find out before too long. We know this team has three Pro Bowlers, but two spots are changing. That's 40 percent of the starting lineup that is uncertain right now. I'm sure it's not the case for other teams, including the Raiders, who also have their share of talented linemen. But that doesn't mean La'el Collins won't become a star at right tackle. Maybe, Jonathan Cooper or Chaz Green fills in at left guard with no problems at all. At the end of the season, this certainly could be the best O-Line in football. But right now, with the question marks, I'd say no. But who cares? As long as this offense moves the ball up and down the field like it did last year, it should be good enough to win games.
Phillips:I agree with my colleagues up to a point. Yes, we have to see how the new pieces fit. But I do remember a time when the Cowboys were trying to fill offensive line vacancies with undrafted, average players. This line still has three All-Pros – legitimate All-Pros in their prime, not guys accruing accolades based off their performance five years ago. La'el Collins is a first-round talent. If Jonathan Collins starts at left guard, that's another former first-round pick in the mix who might succeed with better players around him. Sure, we can debate where the O-Line should be ranked in the top five, but I'm confident they'll still be outstanding and the most consistent facet of this roster.