NFL News & Analysis

Dallas Cowboys mailbag: Chauncey Golston vs. Viliami Fehoko, Isaiah Land's fantastic start and more

2RJM9HE Dallas Cowboys defensive end Chauncey Golston prepares for a play against the Seattle Seahawks during a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

• Comparing Viliami Fehoko Jr. and Chauncey Golston: Both Dallas Cowboys defensive linemen are young and versatile, but they go about their business and contribute in different ways.

• Isaiah Land's great start: The rookie UDFA has impressed this preseason, earning a real shot to make the Cowboys' 53-man roster.

• Ranking offensive linemen: Josh Ball, Asim Richards and T.J. Bass are three of the Cowboys' more interesting developmental offensive linemen, but which one has the best future?

Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes

Another week and another Dallas Cowboys loss. But luckily, the preseason losses don't count. Do you know what does count, though? Your Cowboys questions. So let's get to it.

Editor's note: If you want to get your Cowboys question answered, just tweet (xeet?) John on X (Twitter).

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@McCoolBCB: Talk about the differences in game between Fehoko and Golston, and how that might affect their usage…

Viliami Fehoko Jr. and Chauncey Golston are both intriguing and versatile defensive linemen who should figure heavily into Dallas' future plans. While neither is a likely starter, both could develop into impactful contributors who offenses must account for.

At first glance, some may feel that Golston and Fehoko have redundant skill sets on Dallas' defensive line. After all, they are basically the same size (Fehoko is listed at 6-foot-4 and 267 pounds with 33.5-inch arms, while Golston stands at 6-foot-5 and 268 pounds with 34.75-inch arms) and play similar roles as versatile defensive linemen who can align inside at three-technique defensive tackle to stand-up edge defender.

Nonetheless, the way they go about their business is much different and will likely lead to different usage despite their playing similar positions.

Golston is a bit longer and does a much better job playing into blocks. He uses those 34.75-inch arms to control and create separation from blockers, enabling him to shed when need be to pursue the ball carrier or make the tackle. Golston thrives at attacking leverage points, especially the blocker's wrist, to provide him access to the blocker's edge to continue upfield. Golston is also a patient and assignment-sound defender, as he rarely gets caught too far upfield and always does his best to clog his gap. He's also shown considerable improvement in taking on interior double teams, relying on efficient technique to make up for what he lacks in weight compared to the behemoth offensive linemen inside.

Fehoko, on the other hand, is the pure embodiment of aggressiveness. He relentlessly attacks upfield to create impact plays for the defense. While this can get him in trouble at times due to the lack of gap integrity, leading to fissures in the wall Dallas tries to create at the line of scrimmage against the run, it also enables him to create big plays that put offenses off-balance. Moreover, while Golston thrives at controlling blockers with his length, Fehoko is a bit slipperier at the point of contact, as he tends to struggle to shed when engaged at this point in his young career. While this can create some issues against the run, it will also enable Fehoko to be a more effective pass rusher than Golston. Fehoko's ability to parry strikes and set up linemen with manipulative footwork will put him in better spots to generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

At this point, Golston is someone who can be trusted to play the run at a moderate-to-high level whether he's aligned inside or on the edge. However, his current pass-rush repertoire is best utilized inside against guards rather than outside on the edge. Fehoko, on the other hand, has the ability to be an effective pass rusher on the edge, given his current skill set. Nonetheless, as he gains more size, I believe his pass-rush effectiveness will truly be unlocked inside, where he can take advantage of slower-footed guards. But that's something to worry about in the future.

@djmajor6: Does Isaiah Land make the 53?

There's a real argument that Isaiah Land has been Dallas' best-performing UDFA thus far this preseason, especially with tight end John Stephens Jr. going down with a season-ending injury. While it's true that Land's preseason success has come against second- and third-stringers, it's hard to argue with his production:

While there was some offseason talk of playing Land as a more traditional off-ball linebacker given his size (listed at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds with 32.5-inch arms), he's played exclusively on the edge thus far in the preseason, a role that fits his skill set much better.

Land was a pass-rushing savant at Flordia A&M, as he totaled 28 sacks in just 20 games over his last two seasons in college. While the step up in competition from the SWAC to NFL competition is steep (even when facing backups), Land has more than held his own, showing a natural ability to make his way to the quarterback and pressure the quarterback.

This has put the Cowboys' coaching staff and front office in quite a pickle ahead of roster cutdowns — while Land has played a level commensurate with someone who deserves to make the team, he also plays at the position where Dallas has the most talent and depth. At the moment, there are distinctly five edge defenders ahead of Land on the depth chart — Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence, Dorance Armstrong, Sam Williams and Dante Fowler. And then there's the question of whether the Cowboys place Viliami Fehoko Jr. in the edge defender or defensive tackle pile, but with fourth-round draft capital invested in him, he would also be ahead of Land on the edge defender depth chart more than likely.

Therefore, if the Cowboys want to keep Land on their 53-man roster, they will either have to keep an absurd amount of edge defenders on the team or cut someone who has either proven capable of making meaningful contributions when the games matter or has significant draft capital invested in them.

This is why I believe Land is most likely destined for the Cowboys practice squad if he can make it through waivers. Every year, Cowboys fans scream that one of the team's top preseason performers won't make it through waivers, but every year, we see those players make it through no problem. That doesn't mean Land will, by any means, but I certainly don't think it's a foregone conclusion that he's going to get immediately claimed either.

@Brandosrando: What order would you rank Ball, Richards, and Bass?

Josh Ball, Asim Richards and T.J. Bass are three of the Cowboys' more interesting developmental offensive linemen.

Ball is coming off his best game as a Cowboy. He was a road grader at right guard in the run game, especially on double teams and combination blocks, and much more comfortable in pass protection against the Seattle Seahawks, leading to a career-high 78.3 overall grade. Ball rebounded strongly after a disappointing preseason Week 1, improving his chances to make the Cowboys' 53-man roster.

Richards is a recent fifth-round pick who has shown an impressive and versatile skill set thus far in the preseason. After spending much of the offseason at guard, Richards has kicked out to tackle for the majority of his preseason snaps. The North Carolina product still needs to improve his play strength and ability to move defenders at the point of attack; however, he displayed quick feet to reach defenders in adjacent gaps in the running game in addition to surprisingly varied hand techniques in pass protection. Richards probably isn't ready to take significant snaps in regular-season action yet, but he's on a trajectory where he could be ready sooner rather than later.

Bass has been one of Dallas' better UDFA pickups, as he has been excellent in pass protection with one loss across 28 pass-blocking snaps thus far. He has been a little bit more hit-or-miss as a run blocker. He still fights his rear end off and plays with the type of temperament that puts a smile on offensive line coaches' faces. Bass went from someone who was destined for the practice squad to a player who is legitimately vying for one of the final spots on the Cowboys' roster. His performance in the last preseason game will likely go a long way toward making his case.

To me, Richards is, by far, the most talented of the three. I believe he's the only one with a legitimate chance to develop into a starter someday.


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