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Roster Reset: Who Will Start At Guard/Center?


The free agent signing period is not over by any means, but it certainly has gotten quieter both with the Cowboys and around the league. The focus is shifting now to the NFL Draft, which is scheduled for April 29-May 1.

While it's still possible to see more moves between now and the draft, the bulk of the player movement has already passed. With that being said, let's take a quick look at each position on the roster and see where things stand heading into the draft later this month.

Today, we focus on the guard and center positions.

What Changed? Very little has changed on the roster as far as interior linemen go. They are likely to enter training camp with one of the surest, most reliably dominant guards in NFL history, who will be accompanied by a collection of guards and centers with intriguing potential but who are mostly unproven starters.

Zack Martin is expected to be ready for 2021 at full strength after missing six games last season due to various injuries. The expected return to health of the offensive tackles should affect the guard position as well. Assuming Tyron Smith and La'el Collins are both healthy, then Martin will be able to return to full-time at guard.

Still to be determined is the contract status of Joe Looney, the versatile veteran backup who can play guard or center. He has successfully filled in at multiple positions over the past few years for the Cowboys and his locker room presence has been praised as a valuable asset to the team. It can be assumed that the Cowboys are interested in bringing the free agent back on a short deal, but we will have to wait and see if the two sides can agree on terms before another team shows stronger interest in the depth that he provides.

What's Here? The Cowboys have Zack Martin, and that's what is most important, but what they'll be looking for are two players who they confidently feel can play 17 (or nearly 17) games at the other guard and center position. Connor Williams actually led the entire Cowboys roster in total snaps in 2020, which is a fairly remarkable statistic considering he was only a year removed from ACL surgery. That's a whole lot of valuable experience that was fast-tracked onto the 23-year-old, which will hopefully accelerate his progress.

Connor McGovern will likely be given an opportunity to compete for a starting job at guard or center, but it's also fair to say that second-year player Tyler Biadasz will be put in a position to become the team's starting center. Biadasz struggled with a hamstring injury as a rookie, but looked encouragingly competent in his three mid-season starts.

What's Next? The Cowboys are going to do their best to figure out if they have a collection of backups alongside Zack Martin or if they feel they have a starting offensive line they can trust with what could be the league's most high-powered offense.

Connor Williams should have a head start on all competition going into training camp. He certainly struggled at times last year when going up against some of the league's best bull rushers, but, again, it's fair to expect his first year back from ACL surgery would involve finding a rhythm and regaining confidence in his body's ability to take and initiate contact. You have to respect his availability and growth during what felt like a cursed season. The coaching staff will likely pencil him in as a starter, but they're going to want a competition in training camp, and they'll expect him to meet that competition head on if he wants to be a starter on a team planning to make the playoffs.

Biadasz, meanwhile, was drafted in 2020 with talk of him being the replacement to Travis Frederick. That's a tall and fairly unreasonable task, but fans will be hoping to see a noticeable jump in his development to get excited about entering his second year. If Looney doesn't end up on the roster it might be a sign of how much they believe in Biadasz' immediate potential.

The Cowboys currently have 10 draft picks, and it certainly would not be surprising to see them spend one or two of those picks on interior line depth, but even so, their biggest focus come July will be establishing year-long starters.

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