Rankings for qualified NFL players are easy to find. Lately these have been the subject of much discussion and even heated debate over how the Dallas Cowboys were viewed. But like so many things, the guys who do the real dirty work every time don’t attract attention. These are the linemen on both sides of the ball, experiencing violent collisions almost with every play.

This is why a recent ranking of the 50 best linemen in Brandon Thorn’s game is interesting. Given how difficult it is to get statistics for the bigger ones in advance, its methodology is also worth noting.

This list was made on the basis almost exclusively of my personal film study of the trenches. The idea behind the slots for each player is based on an assessment of all of their work so far, coupled with a projection of expected performance for the 2021 season.

I considered their 2020 film as the number one criteria for ranking as well as the previous year or more of film when possible to serve as additional indicators of future performance. For example, this was not possible for Bucs RT Tristan Wirfs since he was a rookie in 2020, but for Saints LT Terron Armstead, previous seasons were a factor as track record is important when ordering players. for their present and future value.

Keep in mind that “levels” are more important than the actual rating, so players within each level can be moved without much hindsight on my part.

That doesn’t just tell us something about the Cowboys who made his roster. It also explains why things can be better than it seems to indicate.

With the reasoning for it, here are the two from Dallas that made the cut.

(Elite level, 2nd overall) Zack Martin – RG – Cowboys – Year 8 – 30 years old

Martin was forced to play the right tackle for the Cowboys in three games last season, including starting twice from the unknown position before injuring his calf in his second start in the right tackle in Week 12 against Washington. In addition to a concussion that took him out for Week 7, Martin missed a total of six games in 2020, the bulk of his illustrious career (his previous record was two games missed in 2018).

Even with a few cracks in his armor that showed up last season for the first time in his career in terms of injuries and missed games, at 30 with his record of excellent play and an unrivaled skill set, there is more reason to believe that he will regain his stellar game than not.

There was only one player who received a higher ranking, and that was DT Aaron Donald, who gets the “unique” category for himself. This not only recognizes how tall he is, it’s also an admirable use of the word.

Martin’s return is part of the reason the hopes are in place for the performance of the Dallas offensive line. The other parties are called Tyron Smith, La’el Collins, and Tyler Biadasz, who all missed most or all of the season. This made them fundamentally ineligible for this ranking. If all are indeed healthy, that could bode very well, and if he hadn’t come out himself, Smith probably would have cracked this list somewhere since he received an honorable mention at the end.

(Very good / level trend down, 38th overall) DeMarcus Lawrence – Edge – Cowboys – Year 8 – 29 years old

Lawrence has been a bit misinterpreted over the past two seasons, largely due to his declining sack count. When you compare his raw numbers for the 2019-2020 seasons (11.5 sacks) with his 2017-2018 seasons (25 sacks), it’s understandable that people think he is no longer a very good dynamic rider, rather in the ‘good / above average level. It’s important to understand the various changes the Dallas defense went through during this time compared to the coaching changes that impacted Lawrence’s responsibilities as a player. Lawrence has gradually been asked to focus more on race defense while seeing an inordinate number of doubles teams over the past two seasons. When isolated against top-level tackle competition, he is always on his opponent’s most respected list due to his vaunted cross-cut technique, but also his spinning motion, his efficiency on stunts. and its underestimated power.

Defensive coach changes will hopefully see Lawrence more involved in the pursuit of the quarterback, and now those double teams may be a little less prevalent with Randy Gregory poised to become his bookend player on transmissions. Likewise, the large infusion of inside defensive line players during the offseason will hopefully reduce the need to rely so much on Lawrence against the run.

These reasons explain why it may be a rosier image for Dallas than at first glance, although other teams may make similar arguments. Yet in a 32-team league, having two players in the top 50, and perhaps more in the top 40 according to the author’s reasoning, is a good performance. We’re looking for reasons to be optimistic for the Cowboys this year. Just add this one to the list.


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