The Dallas Cowboys’ vaunted offensive line, at the moment, is a shadow of its former self.
Adam Redmond and Xavier Su’a-Filo will compete this week to replace rookie guard Connor Williams, who had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee after an injury in Monday’s game.
Cowboys’ coach Jason Garrett expects Williams to miss at least two games. Redmond, who was a center at Harvard, played in four games a year ago for the Colts. He’s played a reserve role in the past three games.
Su’a-Filo has played 56 games (41 starts) for the Texans after being drafted in the second round in 2014.
“You’ve got to take advantage when you get opportunities in this league when you get them,” Su’a-Filo said. “Adam and I have been trying our best do exactly what the coaches are asking so we’re prepared for situations like this.”
The Cowboys’ offensive line has been a concern through the first eight games. All-Pro center Travis Frederick has been out while he recovers from Guillain-Barré syndrome, an autoimmune disorder. Left tackle Tyron Smith hasn’t been as dominant as in the past. O-line coach Paul Alexander was fired and replaced by assistant Marc Colombo during the bye week. All-Pro right guard Zack Martin and right tackle La’el Collins both have battled nagging injuries at different times this season.
“Hopefully you’ve built your team in a way where you can put somebody in and you can go play,” Garrett said. “We’re fortunate to have a guy like Joe Looney, a veteran player who has some experience, to go in and play in Travis’ absence. You know, Travis has been a Pro Bowl player and it’s hard to replace a guy like that, but excited to have Joe and what he’s done up to this point.”
Garrett said Williams has progressed through eight games, but the rookie has struggled at times. He’s currently getting an average rating from Pro Football Focus.
“I think he’s taking it well. A lot of guys have talked to him,” Looney said of Williams’ dealing with the injury. “Injuries happen in this league. Luckily its’ nothing too crazy and he’ll be back soon.”
The Cowboys could move Looney to guard where he has more experience and use Redmond at center but Garrett said he’d prefer to keep Looney at center and plug in a replacement for Williams, at least for Sunday’s game against the Eagles. Frederick isn’t eligible to play until the second week in December. His progress is still unknown.
“It doesn’t really matter to me. If I need to move, I’ll move. Wherever coach needs to me play,” Looney said. “Every game I’m learning something. Just to be playing this amount and having Travis next to me on the sideline and in the film room is helping me out. I’m learning more football than I ever have.”
Both Redmond and Su’a-Filo have lauded the help from their teammates, especially Martin.
“I’m approaching it similar to the way I’ve been approaching the other weeks, taking advantage of every rep,” Redmond said. “I’m obviously getting a few more now. I’ve been one snap from playing three different spots every week so getting the physical reps is great. I’m just trying to absorb and mimic and do whatever I can. I get to watch one of the best guards in football every day, pick his brain and try to look like him as much as possible.”