As the Dallas Cowboys march toward the start of the 2022 NFL season, they are undoubtedly planning for a number of positional battles. While the offensive skill positions may get the headlines, sustained success is often found in the trenches.
In an effort to protect quarterback Dak Prescott and a pair of prolific running backs, Dallas’ offensive line faces the task of maintaining their integral role in keeping the team among the elites in the conference. Though they seem locked into their starters, the Cowboys may be in for an interesting decision at reserve tackle.
With the start of training camp just under one month away, here is a look at the potential battle brewing to back up starters Tyron Smith at left tackle and Terence Steele at right tackle.
A fifth-round selection by the Cowboys in the 2022 NFL Draft, the 6-8 Waletzko seems to be garnering his share of attention from the fan base. Despite a limited sample size of action from OTAs and minicamp the North Dakota product could make a strong case for a roster spot. Should he get significant reps during camp, he may find himself in the mix.
Ball was perhaps the front runner to earn a reserve tackle along Dallas’ offensive line in 2022 - but in OTAs and minicamp, Waletzko got enough snaps to create the appearance that Ball is trailing. About to enter his second year with the team, the Marshall product has experience within the Cowboys’ system, despite spending the majority of 2021 in injured reserve. The former fourth-rounder should get every opportunity to seize the role, and will be among the most-watched offensive linemen heading into training camp.
At 6-7, 320 pounds, Isaac Alarcón has the look of an intriguing option, as both a reserve guard, as well as a tackle. But the reality is this: His two years within the system as a member of the International Pathway Prospect represent a promotion of the sport outside the U.S. border more than a legit shot at the roster. Meanwhile, Both Aviente Collins and Amon Simon are also on the current roster. Collins spent 2021 on the practice squad, while Simon joined the team as an undrafted free agent. Both face long odds to crack Dallas’ 53-man roster.
Free agent options:
There are still some notable options available at the tackle position. In fact, three offensive tackles from NFL.com’s Top 101 Free Agents List remain on the open market — Duane Brown, Eric Fisher and Riley Reiff.
However, Dallas has already pledged to handle this position with youth. So spending for a backup O-lineman isn't happening.
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So ... if Dallas is to be active for a new face along the line - an option if somehow Waletzko and Ball both flop - they may choose more fiscally palatable options. Here are three players on which Dallas may keep its sharp eye during the next couple of weeks.
Fleming is a familiar face to Cowboys fans, having played with Dallas from 2018-2019. In his first season with Dallas, he played in 14 games, starting three at left tackle in place of an injured Tyron Smith. Fleming repeated his performance in 2019, playing 14 games while starting three at left tackle in Smith’s stead. He spent 2021 with Denver, playing in five games, while starting four contests for the Broncos.
A career journeyman in both the NFL and Arena Football League, Nsekhe spent 2021 in a Cowboys uniform. He suited up for 12 games for Dallas, taking 145 offensive snaps, while logging 63 snaps on special teams. His experience with the Cowboys’ system may make him an intriguing, and potentially affordable option heading into training camp.
Having spent the first seven years of his career in New England, Solder is well-versed in the Patriots’ offensive system. While he has clearly lost a step since his days protecting Tom Brady’s blindside, he continues to be one of the most durable linemen in the league. Including his four years with the New York Giants, he has started a total of 143 games in his career, having missed only two games the past five seasons. In 2021, he allowed six sacks and ranked 38th in PFF’s pass-blocking efficiency. when switching to right tackle. He also continues to be a capable run-blocker. Solder continues to be highly-respected in the league, and his experience in the NFC East could make him a viable option at reserve tackle.
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