How will the Dallas Cowboys replace Travis Frederick’s consistency and leadership this season?
At the start of this offseason, Dallas Cowboys fans were stunned when All-Pro center Travis Frederick announced his retirement from professional football at the age of 29. Frederick stepping away from the game of football means that the Cowboys will now once again be without one of the best offensive linemen in franchise history.
His departure doesn’t just leave the Cowboys devoid of one of their biggest leaders on and off the field, it leaves them with a massive question mark at what has traditionally been a position of strength for the franchise. So what happens now?
Last season, Frederick had battled his way back onto the field after missing all of the 2018 season with Guillain–Barré syndrome, an autoimmune disorder. He played well, earning a Pro Bowl nod and getting visibly better as the season went on.
Frederick’s comeback was one of the better stories in the NFL last season and while fans were understandably sad to see him go, it’s impossible not to be happy for Travis to have the opportunity to leave football on his own terms.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Cowboys’ offensive line was responsible for the fewest number of sacks in the NFL last season. Losing Frederick this offseason puts even more pressure on the new starter to not only play well but help the offensive line continue to perform at a high level.
When Frederick missed all of the 2018 season, backup interior linemen Joe Looney stepped in and played well. Looney started all 16 games at center and while he didn’t make anyone forget about Frederick, he more than held his own.
In 2018, Looney committed just four penalties (all holding) and rarely made drive-killing mistakes. Compared to star offensive tackles Tyron Smith (10 penalties) and La’el Collins (nine), Looney was extremely disciplined. He also did a great job of keeping pressure out of quarterback Dak Prescott‘s face, allowing just a single sack all season.
However that was 2018, and this is 2020. During this year’s draft, the team wasted little time addressing the newfound need and took center Tyler Biadasz in the fourth round.
Biadasz comes to Dallas from Wisconsin (Frederick’s alma mater) and boasts some pretty impressive college accolades. Namely, he was a unanimous All-American, twice selected to the All Big-10 first team, and enters the NFL as the reigning Rimington Trophy winner which is the award given to the best college center in the nation every year.
Biadasz is a strong run blocker who the Cowboys were able to acquire thanks to a draft-day trade with division rivals the Philadelphia Eagles. According to Pro Football Focus, in three years as the starter at Wisconsin, Biadasz graded out as the best run-blocking center in the Big-10 twice.
One more option the Cowboys will have at center this season is former third-round pick, Connor McGovern. McGovern came to Dallas from Penn State in the 2019 NFL Draft. He is extremely versatile, having played both center and guard in college at high levels. He missed all of 2019 with a torn pectoral muscle but figures to be healthy now.
Due to COVID-19, this year’s offseason has understandably looked much different than any other in NFL history. It’s fair to wonder how ready any rookie, regardless of where they were drafted, is going to be to start the season.
Between the shortened offseason and adjustments that Biadasz and McGovern will be making in order to play their first snaps of professional football, Looney is the obvious choice to start Week One when the Cowboys take on the Los Angeles Rams.
Joe Looney offers the Dallas Cowboys a veteran presence who doesn’t make many pre-snap mistakes and can be dependable blocking for Dak Prescott. However, if Looney struggles or gets injured, the team now has some young options behind him who could very well become the future of the position for America’s Team.