The roster turnover is about to begin. Free agency opens in less than one month, and the 2017 NFL Draft isn't far behind it. Over the next two months, the Cowboys will lose and replace a sizable portion of their roster.
For every new face, however, there are dozens of familiar ones that will return to begin a new campaign. From established veterans to second-year players, the vast majority of the Cowboys' 2017 team is already on the roster. In the coming weeks, the staff of DallasCowboys.com will preview those players, analyzing where they've been and where they're going.
The series continues with third-year offensive tackle Chaz Green.
What's Been Good:It seems like ancient history, but one of the most startling moments of the 2016 season came all the way back in Week 3 against Chicago. With very little warning or indication that something was wrong, the Cowboys declared Tyron Smith inactive for their primetime game against the Bears, as the All-Pro tackle had a back injury. Into his place stepped Chaz Green, whose experience to that point was scant to say the least. The second-year draft pick, taken No. 92 overall in 2015, held his own just fine. He was flagged three times on the night, but the Cowboys did not surrender a sack and they ran for 199 total yards in a 31-17 win. Green started again the next week against San Francisco. He injured his foot halfway through the 24-17 win, but he managed to stay on the field and help get the Cowboys to a 3-1 record.
What's Been Bad:Those two games are honestly the extent of Green's exploits in two seasons. That's not necessarily his fault, so much as the result of bad injury luck. The Florida product missed the entirety of his rookie season when he underwent hip surgery just months after being drafted. He made it through the ups and downs of training camp in 2016, earning the No. 3 tackle job in the process. All things considered, he looked pretty solid through the first month of the season. The problem is that San Francisco was the last time we'd see him in game action. The foot injury limited him for much of the rest of the season, and while Green tried to work his way back from that problem, he injured his back. He underwent surgery for a herniated disc in mid-December and found his way to injured reserve for the rest of the year. For those keeping track, Green has appeared in a total of four NFL games out of a possible 33.
2016 Highlight:Let's stick with the Bears game. Tyron Smith is generally considered an NFL ironman, having missed just one game in his career prior to Week 3 of 2016. Smith was limited in the Cowboys' Friday practice, but the assumption was that he'd tough it out as usual. When that didn't happen, Green was plugged into the first-ever start of his NFL career. Given some of his struggles in the preseason, the prospect of him playing 60 minutes was a bit concerning. It wasn't a perfect outing, but Green handled himself well and the Cowboys got the win.[embeddedad0]
What's Next:Green's availability creates an interesting subplot along the Cowboys' offensive line. Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick are locked in as franchise cornerstones, and Zack Martin figures to join them in the near future with a contract of his own. With Doug Free on the last year of his deal, it'd be logical to simply plug Green into the right tackle spot and keep on chugging. The problem is that Green has yet to prove his long-term availability, nor his overall starting capability. It's a scary proposition to hand a starting job to a guy you can't count on. That opens the door for a lot of other scenarios. Perhaps the Cowboys want to try La'el Collins at tackle in Green's stead. Perhaps they once again want to shore the position up by using assets in the draft. Or perhaps they're committed to getting Green healthy and giving him every opportunity to seize the situation. That's certainly the easiest path forward. Green could go a long way toward helping himself in that regard by staying on the field in 2017.