(Editor's Note: This is the sixth of an 11-part series analyzing every position on the Cowboys roster, providing a quick look back before addressing the needs of each spot on the field and how it can be improved heading into the 2016 season. Today we examine the guards and centers.)
Pressing Matters:With a Pro Bowl guard in Zack Martin, a Pro Bowl center in Travis Frederick and a rookie at left guard in La'el Collins, who nearly made the Pro Bowl himself as an alternate, the interior of the offensive line is rather stacked. The only decision that needs to be made concerns the backup roles, particularly at swing guard. Veteran Ron Leary is a restricted free agent and it will be interesting to see what the Cowboys do in terms of a tender offer. Considering he wasn't drafted, issuing the original-round tender for Leary would give other teams a chance to sign him without giving up any compensation. Veteran Mackenzy Bernadeau is a free agent and might not return. If the Cowboys lose both, don't be surprised if Chaz Green gets work at guard instead of competing for a position at tackle.
2015 Evaluation: It's hard to find some faults with a group of players who all either made the Pro Bowl or were close, but this group wasn't perfect last season, especially when the offense needed them the most. On third-and-1 rushing plays, the Cowboys converted just seven of 14 attempts, ranking 29th in the league. They also threw the ball five times with that down-and-distance, converting just once. In the red zone, the Cowboys ranked 30th in touchdown efficiency, meaning the line wasn't able to provide the needed push in the running game.
Need More From … By default, the answer goes to Collins, but he certainly had his shining moments during his rookie season. But in comparison to both Martin and Frederick, who both earned second-team All-Pro honors this year, Collins still has a ways to go. Let's not forget that he converted from playing offensive tackle at LSU, so guard wasn't his natural position. Last year, the Cowboys ranked 30th in the NFL when running the ball behind the left guard spot. Overall, Collins' arrow is pointing up, and if he improves like the Cowboys are expecting, the entire offensive line production should soar in 2016.
By The Numbers:
- As good as Martin has been for the Cowboys, he struggled somewhat in 2015 in terms of penalties. Martin led the entire team with 11 flags. In comparison, Collins had just six this past season as a rookie, despite not starting until the sixth game.
- Travis Frederick became the first Cowboys' center to make the Pro Bowl twice in his first three seasons.