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Cowboys offensive line is the real 2016 NFL MVP

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 24: Offensive linemen congratulate Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Dak Prescott (4) following a touchdown during the NFL game between the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys on November 24, 2016, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. (Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire)
George Walker/Icon Sportswire

Forget the quarterbacks, the skill players and even the superstar defenders. Apologies to both Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, who have each been fantastic in their own way, but the real NFL MVP(s) belongs to the Dallas Cowboys’ offensive line.

Sure, the award will actually never be handed out for a ‘group’ effort, but their dominance deserves the highest recognition. They have a top three left tackle in Tyron Smith, a top three center in Travis Frederick, and the best guard in football in Zack Martin.

Ronald Leary, who is only starting because La’el Collins went down with a season-ending injury, has been lights-out as both a run-blocker and a pass-protector. The ‘weakest’ link of this group would be right tackle Doug Free, who is a middle-of-the-pack right tackle playing just fine.

Their starting quarterback, a fourth-round rookie, has thrown for 18 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions. None of their efforts should be discredited, but the offensive line in front of them is the ultimate supplement.

Prescott has been sacked 15 times in 11 games this year. In comparison, Andrew Luck was sacked 41 times his rookie season. Marcus Mariota was sacked 38 times in 2015. Ryan Tannehill was sacked an average of 46 times per season in his first four. You get the idea here. While Prescott has flourished on his own as an efficient passer, runner and team leader, the line in front of him has been incredible.

Frederick is only one of a handful of starting NFL centers who have not allowed a sack this season. Between him, right guard Martin and left guards Leary and Collins, the Cowboys’ interior offensive line has been responsible for allowing only one sack over the entire season.

Ezekiel Elliott, the far-away front-runner for offensive rookie of the year, is on pace for 1,744 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns on 353 carries (4.9 yards per attempt). He’s been superb, forcing 38 total missed tackles while only losing one fumble. He hasn’t recorded a single drop and is already one of the best pass protecting running backs in the NFL.

He’s carved up defenses running behind the same elite group that turned the fossil of Darren McFadden into a 1,000 yard rusher in 2015. Elliott’s speed, cutback ability and power in the open field has added a new dimension to the Dallas offense. While he’s produced on his own, averaging 2.9 yards after contact (tied for 10th in the NFL), over 500 of his rushing yards have come before contact. Yet another tip of the cap to the maulers doing work in the trenches.

The NFL MVP trophy has gone to a quarterback 8 of the past 10 seasons. The other two went to historic seasons from running backs LaDainian Tomlinson and Adrian Peterson. There is a trend with this trophy and on paper, it will never be written down as a group effort. With that being said, when discussing the truly most valuable aspect of any team in all of football, it is hands down the Dallas Cowboys offensive line.

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