Star Evaluation: Another In-Season Add Delivers

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With free agency looming in March, roster turnover isn’t far away. However, the majority of the 2019 roster is already in place. In the coming weeks, DallasCowboys.com will feature players who are currently under contract for next season, analyzing their past season and their future prospects.

Today, we continue the series with guard Xavier Su’a-Filo.
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What’s Been Good:
* The Cowboys’ front office has had past success finding help after the season starts. (Laurent Robinson, David Irving, Brice Butler, and on another level, Amari Cooper come to mind.) Add Su’a-Filo to the list. He was an unheralded free-agent signing after Week 1 and ended up filling a critical role on a banged-up Cowboys offensive line. Inactive for seven straight games, Su’a-Filo took over at left guard in November – the start of the Cowboys’ five-game winning streak – after rookie Connor Williams underwent a knee scope. The veteran kept the job the rest of the regular season. He provided strength and experience next to fill-in center Joe Looney and left tackle Tyron Smith (and Smith’s backup Cameron Fleming for two games).
What’s Been Bad: Hard to find a lot wrong with how Su’a-Filo seized his opportunity. (The Cowboys went 7-1 with him in the lineup.) Injuries did slow him down at times. A sprained ankle limited his mobility in the Dec. 9 rematch with the Eagles. He got poked in the eye a week later in the shutout loss to the Colts. And, partly due to an ankle issue, Williams replaced him at left guard in both playoff games. While Su’a-Filo arguably gave the line a boost in power, Williams has the edge in terms of moving in space.
2018 Highlight: In his first start Nov. 11 at Philadelphia, with the Cowboys’ season on the line, Su’a-Filo met the challenge of facing Fletcher Cox and the Eagles’ dynamic defensive front. The Cowboys piled up 410 total yards, including 171 rushing, in a complete victory that kick-started a big winning streak.

What’s Next: Williams, the team’s second-round pick last April, is viewed as a long-term starter, and he played better down the stretch after returning from injury. But Su’a-Filo, who’s signed through 2019, proved he can add depth and competition next season at the very least.

Signed after Week 1, Xavier Su’a-Filo stayed ready for his opportunity and proved to be a capable starter at left guard down the stretch in 2018.

Bryan Broaddus’ Bottom Line: As bad as it was losing Travis Frederick for the season, not having a suitable replacement for Connor Williams could have been just as troubling to the offensive line. Give the pro personnel department credit for having a player ready for just that situation. Su’a-Filo is a perfect example of how having a veteran available can make or break a season. Su’a-Filo was thrown into a difficult situation and performed better than expected in weekly battles against not only the best defensive tackles in the division, but around the league as well. Su’a-Filo gave this line stability. He fit right in, and the eyes of those that covered this squad felt he did a better job than the guy he replaced. Su’a-Filo is not the athlete Williams is, but his power/toughness was exactly what this offense needed and the staff worked around his shortcomings successfully.

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