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Mailbag: Why All the Worry About the O-Line?


Why all the worry about the offensive line? They have two Pro Bowlers in Zack Martin and Tyler Biadasz, a couple of young studs in Tyler Smith and Terence Steele and a future Hall of Famer in Tyron Smith. What is the big concern? – Marcus Martinez/Ft. Worth, TX

Patrik: Well, it begins with the unknown. Terence Steele is not only returning to the field from a torn ACL, but there's no guarantee he returns to the Cowboys. Sure, he's a restricted free agent and that means the Cowboys have the leverage to simply match his highest offer and keep him, but if they can't come to terms with him on a long-term deal, who's to say they don't apply a first-round tender on him and let him walk to grab that pick? It's something fans should consider because business is business. If Steele isn't back for 2023, where do Tyron Smith and Tyler Smith line up? Hell, the former is also expected to return (but will it be with the $17 million cap hit that's looming?), but he doesn't yet know if he'll need to remain at RT; and Connor McGovern being a free agent means the elder Smith might go back to LT while the younger Smith goes to LG, but then who's your RT? Toss in depth questions at swing tackle (does Jason Peters want to play at 41?) and on the interior line as young guys still work to prove themselves and, my friend, that's why folks are worried.

Kurt: On paper, yes, this looks like a solid group. Pro Football Focus had them ranked 12th in the NFL last year despite all the injuries and shuffling around while Football Outsiders dropped them down to 17th based on their Adjusted Line Yards metric. Again, a solid effort given the circumstances. However, the overall concern is not just can this unit return to the form of last season, but can they be better? And frankly, they need to be better if the Cowboys really want to contend for a title. Remember, for all the star power on those Super Bowl teams of the past, the offensive lines were truly dominating. So will Steele be the same player coming off a torn ACL? Can Tyler Smith keep the needle pointing up? Is age going to catch up with Martin? How much can we really expect from Tyron Smith? And who is going to play left guard and man the always-important swing-tackle position? Not to mention they now have a new offensive line coach (and with that a new message) in Mike Solari. While I do think this offensive line will again be good, that's still a lot of question marks surrounding a group the Cowboys desperately need to be great.

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