Cowboys' offensive line looking more like best in football these days

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has been sacked just once through two games. Brad Mills/USA TODAY Sports

FRISCO, Texas -- It had been said so often that it just became accepted as fact: The Dallas Cowboys have the best offensive line in football.

When you look at names such as Tyron Smith (6), Travis Frederick (4) and Zack Martin (5) and their combined 15 Pro Bowl appearances, a case certainly could have been made for the Cowboys. But by statistical measures and eyeball tests, they weren't the best line in the NFL the past few years.

Some of last season's issues can be pinned on the season-long absence of Frederick to an autoimmune disease, and some of the fault can be traced to a subtle switch in philosophies brought in by O-line coach Paul Alexander, who was replaced by Marc Colombo after seven games.

Two games into the season, the Cowboys' line has looked much more like the best line in football.

Not that they care much about the title.

"I don't think that part of it matters," right tackle La'el Collins said. "What matters more is we play the way we should be playing, to the standard we have in our offensive line room. All of that talk will kind of take care of itself."

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott ties his success to his blockers up front. He has completed 82.3% of his passes in two games, the best start for a quarterback in league history. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, the Cowboys have the fourth-best pass-block win rate (68.3).

Ezekiel Elliott's 164 rushing yards in the first two games are the most he has had in the first two contests in his pro career. The Cowboys are averaging 151 yards per game on the ground, which is sixth best in the league. They have the best third-down offense so far, converting 61.9% of the time.

"I think we're just getting back to what we do around here, you know?" Martin said. "We're highly repped during the week. We get a lot of looks. We get great looks from our scout team and they're very specific for the team we're playing, and it helped out and pays off on Sunday."

After a full offseason of work, Colombo has installed what he wants out of his line.

"It's not perfect, but we've just got to keep building on it, all right, and just get a little bit better every week," Colombo said. "It's a special unit, but we're like this because we work hard and our attention to detail is the best I've ever seen."

Above it all, however, might be the return of Frederick.

"He's the best center in football, so having that back is a huge deal," Colombo said. "And my communication with him is really good, and I think that translates over with his communication with the rest of the offense. It's special."

Since 2014, the Cowboys have had one of the best rushing offenses. DeMarco Murray (2014) and Ezekiel Elliott (2016, 2018) led the league in rushing in three of the past five seasons.

Pass protection was a weak spot in 2018. Prescott was sacked 56 times in 2018 after being sacked just 57 times in his first two seasons. The 56 sacks in 2018 were the third-most allowed in team history.

"We take a lot of pride in our pass protection and last year was not good," Martin said. "We addressed it in the offseason and we worked on. We still have a long way to go but after two games, we've done some good things."

The Cowboys quarterback took blame for some of the protection issues last season, either holding the ball too long or moving into trouble.

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Prescott has had on average 2.56 seconds to throw with 53.2% of his attempts coming with more than 2.5 seconds to throw.

Prescott has been sacked just once through two games. On last week's sack by Washington's Ryan Kerrigan, guard Connor Williams was beat off the snap by Daron Payne, forcing Prescott to move to his left. Collins had pushed Kerrigan unknowingly into Prescott's path.

"And that was 100 percent my fault," Prescott said after the game. "I just said that to the offensive line, a couple of guys in there, that was my fault once again. They continue to do a great job and they will continue to do that all year long. It's everyone playing together. It's guys getting open so the offensive line doesn't have to block all day long. It's me making good decisions, anticipating things, getting it out of my hand ... I know the coverage. I've got to trust it and throw it. It wasn't a great play by me trying to make something happen. Obviously, I didn't. It should be zero sacks."

That's a high standard, but one the Cowboys want to keep if they want to be considered the best line in football.

"These guys are never satisfied. I'm never satisfied," Colombo said. "We expect a lot from this group, OK. We have a standard that we've created around here and it's all about living up to our standard. I tell these guys all the time, as we go the team goes."