The Dallas Cowboys have had offensive lines that have been nothing short of dominant in seasons past. And despite some inconsistencies in 2021, the group still graded out as PFF's top unit headed into the playoffs.
Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott was sacked 30 times last season, which ranked just 20th among all qualifying signal-callers. Powered behind an o-line of Tyron Smith, Connor Williams, Tyler Biadasz, Zack Martin and Terence Steele (with La'el Collins), the Cowboys offense managed to lead the league in total yards per game (407), but these five also contributed to a league-leading 30 offensive holding calls (26 accepted).
The departure of Williams to the Miami Dolphins and Collins to the AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals leaves room for new faces to step up, something that brought up some concern for owner Jerry Jones. But two months removed from the draft, he admitted he's had a boost in optimism.
"A place that was probably my most concern that I'm the most encouraged is in our offensive line," Jones said. "We've got some players from last year, young players last year, that are going to be real contributors, and then we've got some new players this year, our draft picks principally, that will help us."
These draft picks consist of some physically huge guys that the Cowboys were intent on selecting. Right off the bat, Dallas snagged 6-6, 333-pound Tulsa offensive lineman Tyler Smith with the 24th overall pick. Four rounds later, a even bigger giant heard his name called to the Cowboys when they swung on 6-8, 312 pound North Dakota offensive lineman Matt Waletzko.
The team clearly has high hopes for their first-round pick, with coach Mike McCarthy going as far to say Tyler Smith's versatility could allow him to "work both left guard and left tackle." In addition, Jones raved about Smith's physical and mental attributes.
"His strength and his intellect," Jones said. "He enjoys hitting. He actually enjoys it. He looks like he's hunting something up out there. That was the book on him, and so all of those things are true. I must say that his press conference that may be the most impressed I've ever been at a press conference, just his ability to communicate."
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The two rookies need to help as soon as possible. It's crazy to think, but Martin and Tyron Smith have been staples in the Dallas offense as teammates for nearly a decade now. Their time at the top will soon be coming to a close.
Jones isn't blind to this reality. The two draft picks that have given so much to the offense over the years will soon be replaced. But Jones has confidence in the foundation that's been set for a unit that could nearly define Dallas' potential championship success in the seasons to come.
"I just liked the way that they square up, and I like the way they do the fundamental things," he said. "As far as building and putting things in place for years to come, what you'd like to think you might do that the offensive line, I think we've really done well."
You can follow Zach Dimmitt on Twitter at @ZachDimmitt7
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