The Cowboys have hovered at or near the top of our rankings in recent years. They've had three of the league's very best players at their positions in Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin. But Frederick didn't play at all last season, sidelined due to Guillian-Barre Syndrome, and the line took a step back.
When we put the magazine together, there was cautious optimism that Frederick would return. So far, so good: he played every snap (albeit just 9) with the starters in the first preseason game. He says he feels back to normal, and that helps Dallas move up a couple of spots in our latest rankings update.
The Cowboys still have some question marks, notably at guard. Second-rounder Connor Williams was a disappointment in his rookie season. And Martin, at the other guard spot, is dealing with a back injury. They're anticipating having him back for the start of the season, but would be forced to rely on Xavier Su'a-Filo if he's not. Dallas would take a tumble down the rankings if Martin isn't available, though we're leaving him there for now.
Other developments from the past week:
No movement on the Trent Williams front. He's not reporting to Washington, and Washington is either shopping him or telling teams he's not available -- hard to know which to believe. Most likely they'd move him if the price is right, but telling the world they're trying to deal him doesn't get those offers up. Index readers (among others) have played matchmaker with the Texans, who could badly use a left tackle and have a disgruntled star of their own in Jadeveon Clowney. But thus far, if Washington hopes to trade Williams, the team is doing a pretty good of acting like it isn't going to.
Max Unger retired in the offseason; New Orleans planned to have him at center. That's a critical spot for the Saints offense, what with Drew Brees being wizened and immobile. The Saints handed free agent Nick Easton a contract worth $6 million per year as Plan A, then drafted Erik McCoy as Plan B. Recent reports have McCoy getting most of the first-team snaps, and he started there the first exhibition (with Easton at left guard, although Andrus Peat should be there when the games start). We're guessing it will be McCoy, although New Orleans probably doesn't want to pay Easton good money as a backup; maybe he'll be traded. Anyway, indications are New Orleans will be OK at that spot.
If you watched any of the Arizona game last night, you saw maybe the biggest reason to be concerned about Kyler Murray. He's working behind one of the league's very worst lines, just as Josh Rosen did a year ago. He's way more mobile, of course, and the ball should come out a lot quicker. But his protection is definitely a big reason to be worried about the Arizona offense.
One more note from last night. Atlanta hoped to have first-rounder Kaleb McGary starting at right tackle, but he's got a heart condition and underwent surgery a week ago. He's probably going to miss the start of the season, so we're putting Ty Sambrailo in that spot. That causes Atlanta to slip a slot in our rankings, and that might not be far enough. The line really struggled against the Jets last night: Matt Ryan took 3 sacks on just 17 dropbacks and was hit a handful of other times.
Updated rankings below; colorful table at our Facebook page at this link.