Eatman: Can't Overlook This O-Line Turnaround 


ARLINGTON, Texas – If Amari Cooper is undoubtedly the reason for this sudden turnaround, I wouldn't stand on the table and disagree.

What we saw Thursday against the Redskins was a dominant performance by a receiver that looks every bit like a No. 1 guy who seems to be right on the edge of an elite player.

But that wasn't the only major difference from that last Redskins game just a month ago.

When you think about it, this offensive line has gone to another level – and it's happened even despite a few more setbacks.

What the Redskins faced up front on Thursday was not the same group they saw in D.C. From the coach, to the style, to the personnel, to the attitude, the offensive line was different, and more importantly, better.

No, it wasn't perfect at all. Dak Prescott found himself on his back four times. All four of those stud defensive linemen the Redskins have got themselves at least a half-sack on Dak. So they were doing their thing.

But unlike a month ago, they couldn't take the game over.

The Cowboys brought just as much fight to them as the other way around, and did so without their best player on the left side.

A few jokes were going around in the press box when the news broke about Tyron Smith not being available to play.

"Is it too late to change my pick?" was the common theme of the joke. Basically saying that maybe the Cowboys shouldn't be a heavy favorite now with Smith not manning that left side.

But unlike a year ago when the Cowboys had no answers when Smith went down, this time they plugged in Cameron Fleming and he stepped up in a major way. This is actually the very reason they signed Fleming in free agency – for games like this.

Sure, he got walked back to the quarterback a few times. But he also cleared out some lanes as well. He protected Dak's blind side more often than not, helping the quarterback to a near-300-yard game.

Think about what this offensive line has gone through, not just in the last month but since the start of the season.

Imagine back in late-August when training camp was winding down if you heard this about the O-line.

"Well, the Cowboys are going to lose Travis Frederick for probably the entire season because of a rare syndrome that will keep him off the field immediately. Joe Looney, the backup center, is now the starting center. Connor Williams is going to be up and down at left guard, forcing them to sign a veteran backup that you'll probably have trouble pronouncing. La'el Collins is not going to play as well as he did last year but Zack Martin will be his normal self. Tyron Smith will take a step back as well and will not play on Thanksgiving against arguably the best front in the league. Oh, and if that's not enough, the O-line coach will be fired midway through the season, pushing Marc Colombo into the head spot, with the Cowboys also bringing back veteran-line coach Hudson Houck out of retirement once again."

And yet, this offensive line anchored the Cowboys to a victory.

I had a few people tell me on Twitter that this O-line looks good with three backups in the game.

Ummm, let's go with two backups. Xavier Su'a-Filo is now the starting left guard over Connor Williams. And there's nothing wrong that. Williams will have a good career but it doesn't have to be as a starter right now. I think Su'a-Filo gives them a stronger presence in the middle, and he reminds me of Ron Leary. Not in body type, of course, but just in the fact that he can push the pile a little better.

Of course this team misses Frederick – he was one of the best centers in football. But I just don't ever hear that Looney struggles in the middle. He might not be Frederick, but he's playing at a very high level.

And here's another thing: The Cowboys aren't getting a ton of blocking help from their tight ends, especially with Geoff Swaim now out for a few more weeks. But somehow, this group just keeping patching it together.

They really had no business hanging in there Thursday against the Redskins. But they did more than that in this game.

When you're handing out game balls for this win, save five for that group.