FRISCO, Texas – Jerry Jones and the Cowboys haven't forgotten Atlanta.
Nov. 12, 2017: Dak Prescott got sacked eight times, including six by Adrian Clayborn against backup left tackles Chaz Green and Byron Bell, at the start of a miserable three-game losing streak that ultimately cost Dallas a chance at a playoff spot.
Atlanta's a big reason the Cowboys selected Connor Williams, the standout offensive lineman from the University of Texas, with their second-round draft pick Friday night.
"What reminded me the most to go the way we went was the Atlanta game," Jones said, pausing for effect. "That's influenced this coaching staff, and that has influenced really this selection. We don't want to have that happen (again). That took a lot of air out of us."
Williams might not be the primary backup to Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith this season. The Cowboys view Williams as a guard prospect over tackle, where he started three years at Texas, partly due to less-than-ideal arm length.
But Williams further restores depth where the franchise has been strongest in recent years when healthy: the offensive line.
The club had already taken an aggressive approach there in free agency. They signed tackle Cameron Fleming, who started last year's Super Bowl for New England, possibly as the backup swing tackle or the starting right tackle if La'el Collins were to move back to left guard. Veteran guard Marcus Martin was also signed to help replace last year's starting left guard Jonathan Cooper.
Now Williams, one of the most talented linemen in this year's class, adds more options.
Williams grew up just 20 miles north of AT&T Stadium in Coppell, Texas. A consensus All-American two years ago, he missed seven games as a junior with a torn PCL and MCL in his knee but is now fully healthy, he says.
Despite his high draft projection, Williams impressed the Cowboys by going through a strong workout at their annual "Dallas Day" pre-draft visit with local prospects.
Now he'll join a star-studded line that has three former first-round picks (Smith, center Travis Frederick, right guard Zack Martin) and a first-round talent (Collins).
"I'm so excited to learn from such a strong group of guys how to be a pro on and off the field," he said.
And help ensure that "the Atlanta game" never happens again.