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Finally solving their defensive issues, at least for a year, the surprise failure of the Dallas Cowboys in 2021 turned out to be their inconsistent offense. After starting the season strong through their first six games, injuries began to mount to every position group on that side of the ball and although they maintained their status as one of the league’s best teams, their offense failed them when it mattered.
It appears, based on early tea leaves, that the offensive staff is capable of returning. Stephen Jones, even without Jerry Jones’ full blessing, has said that Mike McCarthy is returning as the head coach. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore was once a hot commodity to be a head coach somewhere, but even with him interviewing for a handful of vacant positions the scuttlebutt is he will once again be in Dallas to run that side of the ball. So what can and will change? That conversation likely revolves around the offensive line.
Will coach Joe Philbin be back? Perhaps, but what will he have to work with? On the left side Tyron Smith missed multiple stretches of the season and Connor Williams was benched, reinserted, and now hits free agency. On the right side Zack Martin is a stalwart and is a First-Team All-Pro yet again, but there’s a chance La’el Collins doesn’t return after his five-game suspension voids his contract guarantees and Terence Steele received plenty of love from the staff for his time in the lineup.
Then there’s the middle of the field, where second-year center Tyler Biadasz got 17 starts. His performance was up and down, and while Dallas could conceivably feel comfortable going into 2022 with him as the starter, it’s not a position that they should shy about addressing this offseason. If that doesn’t come in the form of free agency, there’s a glaring alpha dog in this year’s draft in Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum.
The problem is there isn’t a realistic shot of him making his way to No. 24, so in our first mock draft exercise of the year, Dallas will trade up to acquire him.
Mock Draft Primer
There are going to be around a dozen mock draft exercises here on Cowboys Wire leading up to April’s draft. In some, it will be a simulation of what Dallas could do, in some it will be what Dallas should do. The true takeaway from these is that there are a myriad of possibilities, so fans should look at them as more of an opportunity to get familiar with where prospects are going.
There are prospects who are going to fall in a draft every year. The likelihood of mock drafts identifying the right one is pretty low. Everyone who does a mock draft gets that, so readers can save the “there’s no way that guy makes it there” consternation. The mocks are simulations for the 31 other teams, run by algorithms and in that particular sim, it did happen. Get over yourself, mock crusader.
These mocks are done on The Draft Network and here’s the link to this versions exercise.
TRADE: Send 1.24, 2.56 to Baltimore for 1.14
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Jimmy Johnson Trade Value Score
1.24 = 740 pts
2.56 = 340 pts
TOTAL 1080 pts
1.14 = 1100 pts
The front office isn’t being shy about their needs this offseason and Dallas looks at the landscape in front of them and sees there’s no way that their preferred target doesn’t land within the division. If the Eagles aren’t packaging their picks to move up to select a QB, then chances are their selections at 15, 16 and 18 will ruin the mood at The Star, or Jerry’s yacht, wherever the war room is.
The Cowboys jump their division rivals to secure their target, who obviously is…
1.14 - OC Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
If the Cowboys don’t address the position with a veteran in the offseason, they will have to heavily consider addressing center in the draft. A center going this high? If the Eagles draft picks didn’t fall as they did, it’s be hard. But with three firsts, the likelihood of him going top 20 increases exponentially.
Where has the Dallas offensive line been since Travis Frederick took sick? A mess, living on reputation. The rebuild has to start at Linderbaum immediately puts them back on top.
He’s 6-foot-3, already NFL strong and has a wrestling background that serves him well in the trenches. As detailed in this Prospect Profile, he does everything at a high level already.
Placing him next to Zack Martin will do wonders for both the run and the pass game.
3.88 - TE Jeremy Ruckert, Ohio State
Fans shouldn’t let the stats mislead them, Ohio State doesn’t feature tight ends in their offense, but Ruckert would be a great fit should the club franchise tag or let walk Dalton Schultz. He’s a tremendous red-zone threat for the Buckeyes, has played all four years so he’ll enter the pros with less of a physical learning curve. He’s a tremendous option, leaking out after blocking or threatening the seams.
Blake Jarwin could be a cap casualty as well and while Sean McKeon is promising, a young cheap, higher pedigree option will work wonders. Ruckert is an exceptional blocker, returning to the theme of the day.
Dak Prescott needed more time than he was afforded in 2021. The blitz didn’t do him in, that made diagnosing defenses easy for him. It’s when the front four got pressure with seven defenders in coverage he needed more time. If the protection holds up, teams have to blitz to get pressure.
Ruckert can be that guy on the edge in both pass protection and the run game.
4.125 - OG Ed Ingram, LSU
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
Why yes, that was Ingram blocking for Joe Burrow in 2019’s historic run for the Tigers. A redshirt senior, Ingram has been in Baton Rouge since starting as a freshman in 2017.
Dallas will need a replacement for Connor Williams and apparently Connor McGovern isn’t it as he looks much better at right guard backing up Martin than as a starter on the left side. Besides, Dallas has to get him his FB touches anyway.
As for Ingram, here’s his profile from TDN’s Keith Sanchez:
Ingram is a strong, powerful run blocker that can move defensive linemen off the line of scrimmage. He has the athleticism to become an effective pulling guard in power run schemes. He can also work to the second level in a controlled manner to effectively block second-level defenders. Has a high-level football IQ in his pass sets that allows him to correctly pick up stunts and blitzing second-level defenders. Ingram is a multi-talented offensive lineman that has all of the athletic traits to become an immediate starter in the NFL.
Mock Draft Summary
The Cowboys went defense heavy in 2021 and it paid immediate dividends in their first and third-round picks, Micah Parsons and Osa Odighizuwa. CB Kelvin Joseph looks primed to move into a starting role opposite Trevon Diggs in 2022. Now it’s the offense’s turn to get some restocking.
Combined with last year’s fourth-round pick Josh Ball, this haul would give Dallas a refresh along the line. Dallas simply needs Ball and Terence Steele to be starter-quality for the games that Tyron Smith is sure to miss during the season and with these additions, they’ll be just fine moving forward.