What lies ahead at offensive tackle as the Cowboys pass on Rashawn Slater and take red-flag character Josh Ball?

Dan Rogers

Cowboys select Marshall OT Josh Ball at Pick 138@CowboysNation / Twitter

If you are not happy with the Dallas Cowboys selection of first-round draft pick Micah Parsons, there stands a reasonable chance it's because you wanted them to take offensive tackle Rashawn Slater. Both players have tremendous draft appeal, but for different reasons. Parsons is athletic freak and offers up great upside, but has difficulty processing plays. Slater, on the other hand, is one of the most technically sound players in this draft and offers ups one of the safest bets you could take for any player entering the NFL. The Cowboys chose to roll that dice in hopes of landing a splash-making defender.

Speaking of dice rolls, the front office had a lot of gamble in them on draft weekend as they took several risks in this year's draft. No risk was more scrutinized than when the team decided to take a chance on Marshall tackle Josh Ball. The 6'7" 308-pound offensive tackle enters the league with a lot of baggage as he was dismissed from Florida State after they learned he was involved in domestic violence acts against his ex-girlfriend. Ball eventually transferred to Marshall where he played a total of 21 games across two seasons from 2019 to 2020.

Despite this huge red flag, the Cowboys selected Ball with their fourth-round compensatory pick at 138th overall. While he was their first offensive player selected in the draft, he will come to Dallas as a developmental project. Ball's a nimble player for his size and can be extremely effective with his punch, but his fundamentals need a lot of refinement. Undoubtedly, he's a work in progress who shouldn't be expected to see much action early on.

The disdain for this pick can come in many forms. For some fans, it's just too outlandish for the Cowboys organization to even consider a player who brings with him such a defamatory past. For others, the past is the past, and the focus moves towards what the player can offer this football team going foward.

Regardless of where you sit on this topic, the carrots are cooked and Ball is now a member of this football team. You don't have to like it, and if this pick makes you sick to your stomach, it's certainly understandable. Whether you feel good, bad, or indifferent about the pick, it highlights a very interesting approach this Cowboys team took when addressing their offensive line situation.

Last year was a complete disaster for the Cowboys OLine. We know that. It felt like each new week brought forth another fallen soldier. In all, nine different players started along the offensive line in 2020. The tackle position was hit especialy hard. La'el Collins was out before the year even started, missing the entire season. Tyron Smith got hurt early, only making two starts on the year, so right out of the gate the team was without both their starting tackles.

During the offseason, the team wisely signed free agent Cameron Erving as insurance and the veteran swing tackle stepped in and made five starts before also succombing to injury. This forced the Cowboys to rely on a couple of undrafted free agents, Terence Steele (14 starts) and Brandon Knight (nine starts). The team even resorted to sliding over Zack Martin to play right tackle before he (spoiler alert!) also got hurt.

When the dust settled, Cowboys quarterbacks were sacked 44 times. Only six other teams in the league allowed more. Some negative game scripts added to the higher volume as they were forced into more passing situations. In reality, Dallas was only sacked on 6.4% of their dropbacks. That's a little more respectable as it was the 13th-highest sack rate in the league (sack stats courtesy of teamrankings.com). That's not terrible.

The Cowboys enter the new season with both Tyron Smith and La'el Collins expected to be good to go when September rolls around. They also added free agent Ty Nsekhe who has seen action in 81 total games throughout his career. The seven-year veteran should be the front runner for the swing tackle job; however, we can't just push aside Knight and Steele as potential candidates. Considering how they were thrown to the wolves so quickly, they've actually played pretty well. It wouldn't be surprising to see one of those guys take a very nice step forward as they become more experienced.

So, where does that leave the rookie Ball?

Hopefully, it means he can comfortably sit back and learn. If his number is called, it's probably going to mean the Cowboys tackle position has again fallen on hard times. It's hard not to be a little intrigued in what Ball can develop in to with the proper coaching. Remember, the Cowboys are staffed with one of the NFL's best offensive line coaches in Joe Philbin, and the miracles he worked last year was just flat-out amazing. If he can turn a couple of UDFA's into serviceable players, imagine what he can do with a fourth-round pick whose draft stock took a hit because of a character issue. With the right coaching, this new addition has a shot at sticking and becoming a part of the future along the Cowboys offensive line.

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