The Dallas Cowboys have spent the offseason attempting to improve their roster, but have they done enough to be a contender in the NFC East? To answer that question, I have been breaking down the Cowboys’ roster by position. Today’s focus will be on the offensive line.
The offensive line was arguably the strongest position of the team. This year Dallas spent another first-round pick on an offensive lineman, taking Zack Martin with the 16th overall pick. Dallas has now used three of their last four first-round selections on offensive linemen, so how good can this group be in 2014?
Let’s start with their Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith. Smith has improved in each of his first three seasons. He may be the most important player along the offensive line heading into 2014, because he is responsible for protecting Tony Romo’s blind side.
Another offensive lineman who impressed last season was rookie center Travis Frederick. Some fans and media questioned the selection of Frederick, but he proved the doubters wrong by having a stellar rookie season. He was a stabilizing force in the middle of the Cowboys’ line and helped open up holes for running back DeMarco Murray.
The starting right tackle in 2013 was Doug Free, who had a tremendous bounce-back season. Many thought Free was on his way out after a horrible 2012 that earned him the nickname of “the human turnstile”, but he took a pay cut in order to remain in Dallas and the Cowboys are glad he did. Dallas will hope that Free can continue his stellar play in 2014.
If Dallas did need to replace Free at right tackle, they could do so with rookie Zack Martin. The more likely scenario is that Martin will start at right guard. His versatility was one of the main attributes that led to Dallas using a first-round selection on him.
The left guard position will be up for grabs during training camp. Ronald Leary and Mackenzy Bernadeau both started last season, but they will likely have to beat one other out for the right to start this season.
A few seasons ago the Cowboys’ offensive line was one of the weakest links of the team, but now it is possibly the strongest. With the talent they have Dallas should be able to keep Romo upright, and they should be able to run against most defenses in the NFL. The question is will the coaches call enough run plays?