2023 rookie review: Asim Richards in position to break trend of later-round tackles

The Dallas Cowboys 2024 draft class has received a lot of praise before any of its members even step on the field for rookie minicamp this weekend. For this group to reach their full potential, the Cowboys will need to show they’ve finally hit on a later-round offensive tackle, taking another flyer in the seventh round this year with Nathan Thomas out of Louisiana. Thomas represents the fourth tackle taken in the fourth round or later under Mike McCarthy, and so far injuries have held back Josh Ball and Matt Waletzko from providing any insurance along the line. Luckily, the Cowboys youth movement along the offensive line doesn’t just include these former draft picks and a seventh-round rookie, but second-year lineman Asim Richards in prime position to step into a bigger depth role in year two.

Richards will turn 24 a few weeks into the season, with the arrow pointing up for the former North Carolina left tackle and 169th overall pick in the 2023 draft. The converted H.S. basketball player that started as a TE/DE on the football field before moving to tackle as a senior started 37 games at the position in the ACC, while also playing some at guard. The Cowboys love their flexibility with offensive line prospects, with Richards coming from a pro-style offense at UNC being another added benefit. Richards appeared sparingly in five games on offense for the Cowboys as a rookie. His biggest gains in transitioning to the NFL should have come in practice reps and the weight room, as he looks to add the strength and power needed at this level to match an already technically sound and skilled game.

The Cowboys needed immediate replacements for both Tyron Smith and Tyler Biadasz in this year’s draft at left tackle and center, and feel they found these new starters in Tyler Guyton and Cooper Beebe. As a first-round pick, Guyton won’t seriously face much competition for the starting left tackle job, but Beebe will have incumbents Brock Hoffman and T.J. Bass to possibly rotate in at center. All three players – Beebe, Hoffman, and Bass – played guard in college, meaning the Cowboys will have solid depth behind Zack Martin and Tyler Smith as the starting guards no matter who wins the center job. This makes Richards something of an outsider option to play any guard, but the path for him to be the primary swing tackle is clearly ahead of the former fifth-round pick.

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Besides Ball and Waletzko, only Chuma Edoga and Earl Bostick Jr. are competition for Richards to not occupy this important backup role in 2024. Richards is a downhill run blocker that likes to play in space but is light enough on his feet to protect on the edge, all things the Cowboys value greatly at the line of scrimmage and will be looking for in their starting group. Besides how the rookies Guyton and Beebe look in their first live action (which rookie minicamp will hardly count as), the current questions for the Cowboys offensive line are:

Although neither position on the right side is Richards’ natural spot, he can still be part of the answer to both of these questions. The Cowboys have kept Josh Ball on the roster only to appear in five games on offense over three years, all coming in 2022. They’ve kept Matt Waletzko to play one snap of offense as a rookie and seven in the regular season finale in 2023. This is a team willing to work with and develop their offensive line talent, but like any position, the players have to be available to get better. Availability is especially important up front, as the Cowboys weren’t afraid to triple down at the position in this year’s draft going into Mike McCarthy’s contract year. Dallas is looking for the benefit of McCarthy’s offense taking a step forward in year two behind a revamped offensive line, as well as playing the long game trying to have this all-important unit established for any bigger changes that come to the staff/scheme/skill positions, or quarterback in 2025.

If he can continue his development and put on a strong preseason performance, Asim Richards is in great position to remain part of any and all plans for the Cowboys offensive line throughout his rookie contract. It will be very interesting to see the types of reps he gets at training camp with either the starters or second team, and with those opportunities how he fares against the likes of premier pass rushers Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence, down to Sam Williams or 2024 rookie Marshawn Kneeland.


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