Dallas Cowboys Position Reviews:
How do the Dallas Cowboys improve upon their resurgent offensive line?
By Matthew Postins
Tackles: Tyron Smith (starter), Doug Free (starter), Jermey Parnell (backup), Darrion Weems (backup). Guards: Ron Leary (starter), Mackenzy Bernadeau (starter). Centers: Travis Frederick (starter), Phil Costa (backup).
Other notable players: Center Ryan Cook (spent entire season on IR), guard Brian Waters (signed just before start of season, played 7 games and finished season on IR).
In 2013: Smith earned his first Pro Bowl berth and emerged as one of the best young tackles in the NFL. He was later named a second-team All-Pro. He’s nearing elite status and proved more and more capable of handling elite pass rushers as the season went on. He’s winning many more one-on-one battles than he did last year. The Cowboys asked Free to take a pay cut and he accepted it. It seemed to spur him during training camp, as he easily wrestled the starting job away from Parnell, with whom he had to share the job late in 2012. Free had a far better season in 2013, committing fewer penalties and giving up fewer sacks. The Cowboys wanted Frederick to anchor the middle and he did so from Day 1, and the Cowboys’ running attack and pass protection was better for it. Leary proved he wasn’t a preseason flash in the pan and played steady most of the season. Waters was a perfect signing for this team, as he steadied the line and gave it veteran ballast once he cracked the lineup. But his triceps injury ended his season and gave way to Bernadeau who, frankly, played better than he did a year ago. This unit, which was relatively healthy all season, should get credit for becoming a better run-blocking unit. They responded to the zone-blocking schemes that offensive coordinator Bill Callahan implemented and made the stretch play their bread-and-butter run formation late in the season. The pass protection looked better, but statistically speaking they gave up 35 sacks to last year’s 36. Overall, this unit improved, but it’s not dominant yet.
Looking ahead: Frederick, Leary and Smith look set, though it wouldn’t hurt for the Cowboys to bring a guard in to push Leary this offseason, just to make sure he’s the right guy. The right side will probably need some attention. Of the five linemen that ended the season, Berandeau is probably the most vulnerable to competition. The Cowboys could spend a mid-round pick on a guard and throw the pair into competition. It would also be a good idea to keep sending Parnell in to push Free, as it seems the vet responded when the Cowboys dangled potential unemployment in front of him. If you’re looking at wild cards, there are two. Will Waters want to come back for one more season after a triceps tear? The Cowboys sound like they’re interested. The second is Weems, who worked at both guard and tackle this season. Could Weems be the guy that pushes Bernadeau or Free? Cook, like Waters is a free agent. But unlike Waters it doesn’t seem like the Cowboys want or need Cook back.
Next up: Defensive ends.
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