After being dominant for much of the regular season, the Dallas Cowboys’ 2021 campaign ended in disaster. Despite having home field advantage the Cowboys got ran off of the field by the visiting San Francisco 49ers, losing their first playoff appearance since 2018 23-17. While there were several factors that led to this debacle, one of the most glaring was the overall play of the Cowboys’ offensive line. Even with the 49ers losing their star pass rusher, Nick Bosa early in the contest they were still able to sack Dak Prescott 5 times and pressures him a whopping 20 times! While disappointing, this bad showing by the offensive line has become a trend and not an outlier.
The Cowboys’ offensive line finished the 2021 season ranked a pedestrian 23rd in pass block win percentage.
Their inability to consistently protect the quarterback has also led to a number of penalties that helped derail drives. In 2021 the Cowboys’ led the league in offensive holding calls with 34.
Now former Cowboys’ guard, Connor Williams, led the league in personal fouls with 14 in total (3 declined).
While in theory the line should be called for less penalties with his absence his replacement also has a history of accumulating fouls. Tyler Smith who is projected to start at guard in 2022 had 16 penalties during his final season at Tulsa. While Smith is immensely talented, his tendency to hold may make him just as big of a liability as Williams.
A deep dive into the numbers further proves that the line is no longer good enough to support a playoff run in the immensely talented NFC. On the season the Cowboys’ offensive line allowed 51 quarterback hits and 130 pressures.
While neither is the worst mark in the NFL these metrics fail to match up against the other contenders in the NFC. All four teams that advanced further than the Cowboys in the NFC playoffs allowed less quarterback hits and three of them allowed less pressures.
The Cowboys offensive line last year allowed a high number of pressures, quarterback hits, and was also the most penalized unit in all of football. As currently constructed it is highly unlikely that they will perform as a top unit in football. Injury, inconsistent play, and inexperience has turned the once acclaimed line into a shell of its’ former self. While horrid as a pass blocking unit the Cowboys were exponentially better run blocking. They finished the season tied for 4th in team run block win rate at 78%. Tyron Smith, Tyler Biadasz, and Zach Martin all finished top 10 at their respective positions in run block win percentage as well. If the Cowboys utilized a more run focused approach the line would perform better but a heavy rushing attack has not been the calling card of Kellen Moore. In 2021 the Cowboys’ offense averaged 38.4 pass attempts per game. In 2020, even with Prescott missing 11 games the Cowboys STILL attempted 39.9 passes per game. Moore has proven he is willing to live and die with the passing game regardless of the personnel. If the Cowboys’ offensive line has any hope of being at least serviceable, Moore will need to adjust his play calling to maximize their strengths, and pass blocking is no longer one of them.
One response to “Not lining up: Why the Cowboys’ offensive line is no longer a strength”
Just supports my theory of going back to the playcalling of 2016 and add a fb with pass blocking skills which would make it much easier for Dak to perform his style of football 🏈 on the run outside the pocket he has the ability to make play with his feet as well as his arms and becoming the X factor pushing the envelope and extending plays as his predicessor did with the style defense Dan Quinn runs would lead us to a great playoff run if not a SB birth with winning possibilities.