A former Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns executive is saying it like it is: the Dallas Cowboys have an issue of quality on the roster.
There’s no question that Dallas has some promising young stars on the team: defensive end Micah Parsons, cornerback Trevon Diggs and wide receiver CeeDee Lamb are all talented and have had early success.
That success at an individual level is encouraging, but an early exit from the 2021 playoffs and uninspiring 19-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1 are prime examples of the lack of success the Cowboys have had over the past two decades and under current head coach Mike McCarthy.
Former Eagles president Joe Banner explained to Heavy NFL insider Matt Lombardo that the difference between the dynasty teams of the 1990s and now is simple: top-level talent across all positions, especially on the offensive line.
“If I were looking at the Cowboys and I were trying to figure out what I could fix, to change things, the Jimmy Johnson era had three of their five offensive linemen as perennial Pro Bowl players. A couple of years ago, they had a few perennial Pro Bowl players. Now, they have a couple of young guys they’re trying to develop and some guys who are older that they’re holding their breath over whether or not they’ll stay healthy. Tyron Smith already didn’t,” Banner said.
Banner’s words ring true in 2022, as the Cowboys attempted to transition their offensive line but are now in a problematic scenario.
Cowboys Make Big Decisions on Offensive Line
Coming into the 2022 offseason, questions surrounded tackles Tyron Smith and La’el Collins. Both are considered to be some of the best outside blockers in the NFL, but Collins regressed in 2021 and Terence Steele made a case for the full-time gig after starting 27 games in the past two years.
Dallas went with their hot hand in Steele, releasing Collins and then drafting former Tulsa standout tackle Tyler Smith in the first round of the 2022 NFL draft. On the other end, they decided to gamble by sticking with Tyron Smith despite his recent injury issues.
Before the season even began, Dallas paid the price for that move. Smith is expected to be out the majority of the season with a torn hamstring, leading to the signing of Jason Peters and having to start Tyler Smith at left tackle in Week 1, despite the rookie doing most of his offseason work at guard.
The Cowboys and owner Jerry Jones attempted to navigate a transition period at offensive line this offseason, but have seemingly gotten the wrong result with each decision. The domino effect feels very real, as one has to wonder if quarterback Dak Prescott would have avoided his thumb injury in Week 1 behind a stronger offensive line.
Former Eagles Exec Says The Problems Don’t Start with Dak
As the quarterback of the NFL’s biggest franchise, Prescott faces consistent scrutiny. It’s the nature of the game and the Cowboys, but Banner thinks it all starts in the trenches.
Rather than question Prescott’s struggles, the former Browns CEO thinks the history of the franchise speaks for the team’s current problems.
“The reason they’re struggling, even when Dak was playing, was the offensive line is breaking down,” Banner said. “That’s obviously a talent issue. You can see, since Jerry bought the team, when they’ve done well, they’ve had dominant offensive lines. When they’ve struggled, they’ve had beatable offensive lines. That’s where they are now, with or without Dak.”
The message from Banner is clear: Dallas (or any NFL team) can’t consistently win without a top-tier offensive line. Right now, the Cowboys do not possess that quality.
Offensive line excellence creates time and space. Time and space create options for playmakers. Playmakers with good options win games. It’s ugly in the trenches, but it is where games are won and lost.