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Cowboys’ Offensive Line Could Be Better in 2017

Offensive Line

It has been a few days and the biggest news about the Dallas Cowboys remains the same, it revolves around La’el Collins and his best fit on the offensive line. Should he line up at right tackle or left guard when training camp comes around? After all, isn’t that when it will matter for real?

The trickle-down effect of Collins playing either spot will be felt, but remember, either way Dallas will have two new starters on the line. However, throughout all the talk about which position is the right fit for Collins and the Cowboys, one sentiment from many outsiders remains constant: the team’s offensive line won’t be as good in 2017.

Pardon me for taking a different approach, but I’m more of a glass half-full kinda guy. Truth is, the unit actually might be better than they were last year.

The object is always to get the most talented players on the field and La’el Collins is a big step in that direction. Doug Free was a better player than many want to give him credit for, but he did have some issues in the passing game last season and Collins has the potential to be a better tackle. Potential is the key word, but since we’re being optimistic, he has the youth and athletic ability to be a dominant player. Collins doesn’t have the experience of Doug Free, but he’s got a pretty good base from playing tackle at LSU and he has played at a high level in the NFL during his first two years.

With Collins at right tackle, the left guard spot could be taken over by Jonathan Cooper. Again, if you’re trying to get the best talent on the field, the former first-round pick would go a long way to doing that. Cooper has had his issues finding his groove since he entered the league, but he has flashed some skills and he now gets to work with Frank Pollack, who is one of the better line coaches in the business. He’s still young and has time to figure it out, especially playing in-between two All-Pro players in Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick.

Speaking of Smith, remember that he played hurt almost all of 2016 with neck and back issues that zapped him of some of his ability and strength. With Smith returning to full health this year, expect him to get back to a more dominant form in 2017.

If La’el Collins can play up to the level that his pedigree suggests and Cooper proves to be a capable addition at left guard, the Cowboys could very well have a better offensive line in 2017 than they had last season.

Of course, this could be too much optimism and the unit might take a step back as many suggest. However, the talent of the players who will be taking over for Doug Free and Ronald Leary suggests the Cowboys might get better results.

There’s no need for pessimism, especially in May.

You can chat with or follow Ben on twitter @BenGrimaldi

Ben Grimaldi

Ben Grimaldi

Senior Analyst ProFootBallTalkLine.com at SportsTalkLine
Writer for ProFootBallTalkLine.Com. Associate sports producer. Lets talk sports! On Twitter @BenGrimaldi and Podcasting for STL!
Ben Grimaldi


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  • McShrek

    Cooper will NOT be better than Leary was in 2016…………whether Collins can be better than Free remains to be seen…..he might have the higher upside, but his moving out to RT will have its learning curb for sure, and the coaching staff will have to evaluate his progress over the summer……..not a lock that he starts the seaon at RT, but worth the look

  • Michael

    The problem with Cooper has always been strength. He has great movement skills but his functional strength is marginal for the position. He may or may not be a long term solution at LG.

    Something that has been overlooked this offseason is that the Cowboys averaged 4+ per carry running behind the right tackle but only 3 per carry running behind the left tackle. What this means is that Free (the RT) wasn’t able to connect on his backside blocks. Free’s disintegration over the course of the season was worse than it looked on Sundays. I think Ben is right and the OL has a good chance of being a better unit next year with Collins replacing Free at RT.

  • Paul Karam

    What is up with Jeremiah McKinnon? He was in camp last year but got injured, then released. Now he is brought back. Does he stand any chance or is he a camp body?

  • Taylor

    I would rather see Collins remain at guard and one of the candidates dominate his way into the starting RT job. Qb’s hate quick interior pressure, preventing that should be a priority.

  • Jon B

    Ron Leary at guard and Collins at RT would have been ideal. Free was aging and we knew he could retire or injury or decline in skill.

    Ron Leary was one of the best players on the team last year. Period. Since when did Jerry not find a way to pay for good play.

    I don’t doubt that Collins could be a good RT or a great guard. The question is do we get Collins good or great and another guy who wasn’t a starter at all. Collins was a starter and suffered injury. Nobody else on the squad has had a season of success like Collins and Leary.

    Is Pollack really good? Or does he have a great group to work with or both. Hopefully it’s both. We need a youngin to step in.

    • Ben Grimaldi

      With Pollack, its probably a little of both. He’s got good players but he also learned under Bill Callahan, probably the best in the business so he’s a good coach. As it goes with Leary, team wasn’t gonna pay 2 guards big money and Martin is gonna get a HUGE deal this summer.

      • McShrek

        Allocation of payroll $$ is always an issue for teams, you cannot afford to overstock a posiiton group and then abandon the defense…….that has been the Cowboy apporach for far too long now, resulting in gut wrenching losses to elite QBs….starting with Favre in 2009 and then back2back losses to Rodgers