Skip to main content

Eatman: Best O-Line in NFL? Perhaps, But Plenty of Questions To Answer First

FRISCO, Texas - If you've seen one, you've seen 25.

And before too long, fans will probably see one of the latest Jason Garrett creations that finds its way onto a T-shirt or sweatshirt or both.

The master of the motivational phrase, Garrett has his players and coaches wearing Cowboys gear this offseason that simply says, "Re-Commit."

It makes sense for a team coming off a 13-3 record. I remember a couple of years ago after the Cowboys went 12-4 in 2014, Garrett said it over and over that 2015 was a different team and everyone had to start over.

Man, was he ever right about that one.

So now he's asking his team re-commit. Don't assume anyone is carried over from year to year.

I like it. I agree with it. But it makes me wonder, does that apply to the offensive line as well?

I mean, ask anyone in the NFL. Whether or not they're a fan of the Cowboys or not, everyone seems to just agree that the best O-line in football resides here in Dallas.

Now, I'm not going to sit here and say it doesn't. I guess the group in Oakland would make a case. But if we're truly sincerely starting over from scratch and re-committing, then I think we have to be fair and say this offensive line still has to answer a few questions before we just hand them the title once again.

We've got question marks on 40 percent of the unit right now. Now, I fully understand that the remaining 60 percent of the group finds itself in the Pro Bowl every year. For the guys like Travis Frederick, Tyron Smith and Zack Martin, yeah, they will re-commit like everyone else. They have to come to work again and do what they always do. I have no doubts they will continue their success and make cases individually as the best players at their respected positions.

But let's not act like three great offensive linemen make a unit complete. If memory serves, the Cowboys had a trio in the Pro Bowl for about three years straight in the late 2000s. Leonard Davis, Andre Gurode and Flozell Adams were all Hawaii-bound (or wherever they played the game) on a regular basis. And yes, the Cowboys were pretty good on offense during those years, but I don't remember people saying they were the best in the league.

My point is simple here: Let's figure out what is going to happen with the rest of the offensive line before we just assume things are going to be the same as last year.

Because in 2015, those three studs were Pro Bowlers as well, and the Cowboys couldn't pick up a yard too many times in short-yardage situations. Some of that had to do with the running back. Some of it was the quarterback and the lack of a dual-threat option.

And some of it was just the other guys on the line. You can't tell me Ron Leary and his brute size and strength didn't give the Cowboys a better chance to pick up yards than La'el Collins, who was a rookie playing a new position.

I've been on record many times as saying that I think Collins would be a better tackle. And not just because he played that spot in college. Leary and Martin played tackle in college as well. It's just about body type, and to me, Collins looks like he would be an ideal tackle.

And unlike two years ago when he came to the Cowboys, the right tackle spot seems to be open again. Nothing has been made official with Doug Free, but there have been several reports suggesting he is contemplating retiring.

The Cowboys haven't publicly commented on that, but they did go out and sign Byron Bell, who has started his fair share of games at tackle.

How this is shaping up to me is pretty simple: The five best offensive linemen will play. And while that sounds like it should be the case every year, it's not always the way it works out. Sometimes you've got backups who might be better players, but don't have the position flex.

In this case, you've got Collins probably starting out at left guard again. And I would imagine Chaz Green and Bell get some snaps at right tackle.

Then you've got Jonathan Cooper, a former first-round pick who has battled injuries since he got into the league. Perhaps he can put it all together here in Dallas. I will say this, left guard might be the most protected spot in all of the NFL, sandwiched in between Frederick and Smith.

[embeddedad0]Who knows, maybe Cooper is not the same player the Cardinals thought they were getting. After all, teams thought the same of Marc Colombo, who thrived when given a second chance in Dallas. Hmmm, and Colombo just so happens to be on the current staff as an assistant O-line coach to Frank Pollack.

Oh, and we haven't even drafted yet. I'm sure there will be another lineman added to the mix as well.

This isn't designed to create any doubt about this position. There are plenty of encouraging things to lean on here. They do have three outstanding linemen to anchor this group.

They've got some other options as well, including Collins, who was a Pro Bowl alternate as a rookie. And guys like Cooper and Bell have plenty of starting experience. And then there's Green, who has potential but just has to stay healthy so he can be consistent.

There are superstars. There are experienced backups and young players with tons of upside.

What's not to like about this group.

But right now, as we sit here in early April, there are question marks, too. That doesn't mean they won't be answered by the time the season rolls around.

Especially if this group does a great job of re-committing.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content