Cowboys' offensive line is powerful, but depth matters

With the Dallas Cowboys set to open training camp practices Saturday, here is the latest in a position-by-position look at their roster:


Returning players: Tyron Smith, La’el Collins, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, Doug Free, Ronald Leary, Chaz Green

Gone from last season: Charles Brown, Mackenzy Bernadeau

New this season: Joe Looney, Jake Brendel, Ryan Mack, Jared Smith, Boston Stiverson, Bryan Witzmann, Darryl Baldwin, Cameron Bradfield

Position coach: Frank Pollack (fourth season with the Cowboys, second as offensive line coach)

Biggest issue: The Cowboys go into training camp knowing their five starters are Smith, Collins, Frederick, Martin and Free, but depth is an issue, especially with Brown's somewhat-surprising decision to retire. Brown's absence won't alter the Cowboys' plans, but now they need Green to be the backup to Smith and Free on game day. Green did not play last year as a rookie because of hip surgery performed not long after he was selected in the third round. He will not push Free for a starting spot, but he has to show the coaches he is ready to step in if needed. He struggled with the heat in the spring, so the cooler temperatures in Oxnard, California, should help him get through.

Player to watch: The Cowboys picked up the fifth-year option on Frederick's contract for 2017 in the spring, but there is a chance the team could try to sign him to a long-term contract this summer. Frederick, who has been named to the Pro Bowl the past two years, has developed into one of the best centers in the NFL. He has not missed a game in his career. There could be salary cap ramifications to signing Frederick, with Martin in line for an extension after the 2017 season and Smith already making $10 million per season.

Medical report: Leary missed the voluntary part of the offseason program, showing up only for the June minicamp, as he awaited a potential trade. Because he did not work out with the team, the Cowboys will be careful with him early in camp to help prevent any overuse injury. Free had foot surgery after the season but he went through the offseason program without any issues.

Play it out: The Cowboys dress only seven offensive linemen on game day but generally keep eight to 10 on the 53-man roster. Leary has value, especially if Collins or Martin suffers an injury, which is why the team is reluctant to trade him. The Cowboys added Baldwin and Bradfield this week to help with their depth up front. Looney takes over the interior backup role Bernadeau handled the past two seasons, but Brendel could work his way into the mix for a spot on the active roster or practice squad.

Notable number: 4.6. In the past two years the Cowboys' running backs have averaged 4.6 yards per carry. The last time the Cowboys had a better per-carry average was in 2009, when they averaged 4.8 yards.

Quote board: "It's one of the best units that I have ever been around in football in terms of how close they are to each other and how hard they work. From the time they spend together in the weight room, to doing their drill work on the field, time they spend after practice together working on their fundamentals, time they spend together, it's a really close-knit group that pride themselves on being the hardest-working unit on the team, the hardest-working unit in the league.

"So they are very much grounded in trying to get better each and every day. They have a lot of great character guys, great personal character guys, great football character guys. So when you bring younger players in, they kind of understand what the culture is at that position group right away. So we're fortunate to have them. They can be the heartbeat of our football team." -- coach Jason Garrett on the offensive line.

The series:



Running backs


Wide receivers