FRISCO, Texas — Questions surrounding the depth of the offensive line have been attached to the entirety of the Dallas Cowboys' offseason, and that won't change heading into September. If anything, it's become a bit exacerbated, and that's due to an injury suffered by Josh Ball.
Ball, 25, exited the final preseason contest on Saturday when he suffered a hip injury against the Las Vegas Raiders. That injury has officially been deemed "significant" by head coach Mike McCarthy, and will cost the former fourth-round pick "multiple weeks" of recovery.
"That is the early diagnosis," he said of Ball.
And, with that, there are decisions to be made by McCarthy and the team's front office.
Ball was getting plenty of work this summer on the interior and as an option at tackle, the latter being his original position, but subtracting him from the depth equation means a few things — particularly how the Cowboys will choose to handle his roster spot.
With mandatory cuts due on Tuesday by 3 p.m. ET, the Cowboys must choose one of two paths:
- Place him on injured reserve before the NFL deadline, effectively ending his 2023 season entirely (season-ending injured reserve).
- Keep him on the active roster through the NFL deadline, carrying him on the 53-man roster for one day, and then moving him to injured reserve (he could then be activated from IR at any point after four games has passed).
Should they opt for decision No. 2, they'll have to determine who they will waive or release in order to retain Ball for 24 hours.
It's truly a conversation to be had in Dallas, more so at iOL than at tackle (but also at tackle, though Matt Waletzko and Asim Richards are the frontrunners there behind Tyron Smith and Terence Steele, Tyler Smith's position flex notwithstanding).
As for who'll need to step up and show themselves prepared to take on the role of backup interior lineman, the immediate thought will be to lean heavily on a player like T.J. Bass, an undrafted rookie out of Oregon who had one of the best training camps of any player in Oxnard — continuing his strong performance in each of the three preseason games.
Bass has arguably earned a spot on the 53-man roster, even if Ball did not suffer an injury.
Other incumbent options include Matt Farniok and Brock Hoffman, two second-year players vying for a seat as well. Keeping with the youth movement here, look toward rookie fourth-round pick Asim Richards as an option, though Richards' experience is primarily at tackle (where he looked good in preseason outings) though he also got plenty of work on the offensive interior when the team did its work in Southern California.
Chuma Edoga lost the back end of his training camp to a hyperextended knee, making it uncertain if the Cowboys will lean on their hopes for him — having signed him in free agency this past spring — while Earl Bostick Jr. (another rookie talent) hopes to remain in Dallas following roster cuts.
The bottom line is that there was a depth issue on the offensive line, and it just got worse, but there are also options to solve it; and that might also include potentially adding a veteran via waivers or outright in free agency.