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Progress Report: Williams Turned Into O-Line Veteran


(Editor's Note: NFL rosters change wildly from year to year. This year will be no different, as the Cowboys seek to upgrade their roster via free agency and the 2021 NFL Draft. Still, a large percentage of their roster is already in place, and they'll have plenty of work to do to improve last season's 6-10 record. In the coming weeks, the staff of will evaluate those players who are already under contract, examining their past performance and future outlook. Today, we'll continue the series with guard Connor Williams.)

The Good: There's a saying that "the best ability is availability." If that's true, then Connor Williams was one of the most valuable players on the Cowboys in 2020. Of the 1,145 offensive snaps that the Cowboys took last season, Williams was on the field for 1,144 of them. Not much can be said about his season that would be more impressive than that statistic. Williams took a huge leap from the youngest, least accomplished member of the offensive line to being forced into a veteran presence when the offensive line was decimated by injuries to players like Tyron Smith, La'el Collins, and Zack Martin. Starting every game of the season was a noteworthy accomplishment coming off of ACL surgery the year prior, and he seemed to return with more strength than he'd shown in his career previously.

The Bad: Williams can't be blamed for the injuries of his cohorts, but ultimately, the offensive line was far from a strength for the team last season. All four starting quarterbacks the Cowboys deployed dealt with very little time in the pocket and Ezekiel Elliott was regularly being touched almost immediately upon receiving the ball. The run game was supposed to be something the Cowboys could establish regardless of their quarterback situation. Unfortunately, Williams was pushed backwards by some of the better defensive tackles he faced last year. He might not have been a weak link in the offensive line, but he didn't shine as its pillar either.

Best of 2020: Week 2's victory over the Atlanta Falcons will always be remembered for the "Watermelon Kick" that led to the Cowboys stealing an improbable win with a last second field goal. The special teams may have bailed out the defense, but the 40 points Dallas scored was a glimpse of what the offensive could accomplish with the majority of their blockers and young players like Williams playing up to their potential. The offensive line only gave up one sack and they blocked for four separate rushing touchdowns---three of them coming from Dak Prescott. Elliott averaged four yards per carry as the Cowboys bullied the Falcons' front seven. Dallas finished with 570 total yards.

Contract Consideration: Williams is entering the final year of his rookie contract. If he maintains the durability he showed last year and continues to improve as a blocker then he may be an intriguing free agent to a team looking for interior line help in 2022.

What's Next? Nothing's certain, but it seems safe to say that Williams earned the right to retain his job as the starting left guard in 2021. That said, he was converted to guard after playing tackle in college. So, perhaps if the rest of the unit is healthy then Willaims would have more value as a swing tackle who contributes versatility. His impending free agency in 2022 will be something to monitor. The Cowboys would likely love for Williams to give them a reason to confidently make him a starting guard for years to come, but he will need to continue to prove that in his performance. Connor McGovern should enter training camp healthy and a possible option to replace Williams in the starting lineup if Williams begins to struggle.

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