Connor Williams out; Should Cowboys try La’el in Best 5 shuffle?

FRISCO – The Dallas Cowboys have made a medical decision regarding Connor Williams’ knee, as will undergo arthroscopic surgery today.
Now the Cowboys have another decision to make: Is the “Best 5” philosophy the best thing for this O-line?

The Cowboys are optimistic the rookie Williams can return later this month, possibly as soon as two games from now against the Atlanta Falcons. But in the meantime, there is a vacancy at his left guard spot … and with a game at the Philadelphia Eagles, not much time to mess around with choosing an option.
Privately, the Cowboys are saying that they favor the least shuffling possible, which would mean Adam Redmond gets the elevation from being the “swing guard” to being a starter, and the other four O-line spots go unshuffled.

But there are a number of arguments that favor a different approach, a “Best 5” approach, meaning simply that regardless of position, a team simply finds a way to play its best five blockers.

Maybe Redmond has shown in practice in recent weeks, while subbing for right guard Zack Martin (who has been nursing a bum knee), that he is indeed one of the “Best 5.” He has so-far established that he’s superior to veteran backup Xavier Su’a-Filo, who hasn’t been part of the 46-man game-day roster since joining the club. The Cowboys think Redmond is more athletic than Su’a-Filo and therefore a better fit for what they do at guard.

Another option, maybe in part as a response to the muscular interior D-line nature of this week’s foe in Philly? That would fuel a shift of right tackle La’el Collins to left guard, with swing tackle Cam Fleming — who has NFL playoff experience as a starter — to the first team. The Cowboys have brainstormed on this one, and seem to be leaning against it, as it would require multiple moves for a group that has already shown inconsistencies so great that Dallas used the bye week to fire position coach Paul Alexander in favor of Marc Colombo and the out-of-retirement Hudson Houck.

Maybe “more change” would be “too much change.”

Dallas probably won’t move center Joe Looney to left guard and replace him at center Redmond. But that would require Redmond to make the line calls, something the veteran Looney has actually done well in place of Travis Frederick, who has been sidelined all year with his autoimmune illness.

Williams has started every game during his rookie season after the Cowboys drafted the Texas standout in the second round. He’ll get bigger and stronger and better eventually, but of course at 3-5 Dallas needs to find a way to get better now. Maybe it would reek of desperation to change so much in the form of the “Best 5.” … or maybe “desperation” is a frank reason why the Cowboys should consider it.

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