DALLAS — When All-Pro center Travis Frederick announced his retirement during the early stages of the COVID-19 lockdowns, which came near the beginning of the new NFL year in 2020, it seemed as though the Dallas Cowboys were destined to go back to Joe Looney in the middle of their vaunted offensive line.
Even though Looney started all 16 games in Frederick's absence in 2018, as the former 2013 first-round pick from Wisconsin battled Guillain-Barré Syndrome, his emergence into the starting job seemed temporary. As affable as Looney was, he was 30 years old by Week 1 against the Los Angeles Rams. He wasn't going to start every game for the next six seasons the way Frederick had done beginning in 2013.
Dallas hedged their bets by selecting Wisconsin center Tyler Biadasz in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL draft. Although Biadasz started four games of his 12 active in 2020, he has taken hold of the job at center in his first full offseason.
"With Tyler, he's grown quick, ever since his first year he came here, very high energy and we love it," All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith told reporters during minicamp this week. "He's taken the role of being the center and he's learned quick. You would think the kid has played for four years."
What has helped the 6-4, 314-pound interior offensive lineman project a veteran presence is what offensive coordinator Kellen Moore calls "command and conviction."
"Being that center, there’s a lot of stuff that he communicates to the quarterback, to the offensive line, to everyone," Moore said on June 4. "And I think just how fast and crisp and confident he is with that, that’s huge this year. Obviously like CeeDee [Lamb], it’s his second year, it’s the first full offseason, there’s just a confidence level that’s coming out of him."
Right tackle La'el Collins did not get to spend much time with Biadasz on the practice field in 2020 as Collins struggled with a hip injury and was placed on injured reserve to start the season. Furthermore, his rehabilitation began quickly as he elected to have season-ending surgery in October. What Collins has been able to pick up on with the Amherst, Wisconsin native is his confidence.
"He's just figured out everything that he needs to know being the center of the offensive line, making the calls," Collins said earlier this month. "He's speaking with more confidence. He's asking the questions that you want a center to ask against certain different things, adjustments, and everything like that, what to do."
With being a Wisconsin native, playing for the Badgers, and having a beard, the comparisons to Frederick are too easy to make. The bookends along the offensive line are split when it comes to whether or not Biadasz and Frederick are similar.
"So, it's funny, man," said Collins. "He reminds me a little bit of Trav. He's got a lot of Travis in him. He's great to see because we all know how great Travis was."
"You could say he reminds me of Travis but he's a completely different player, every player is and he plays in his own way," said Smith. "I think that's him."
One area where the Cowboys would like Biadasz to emulate Frederick the most is in consistency. Aside from the 2018 season, Frederick never missed a start for the Cowboys and made the Pro Bowl in all but his rookie season. Frederick was even the first-ever Dallas center to be named first-team All-Pro.
As long as Biadasz carries the same command, conviction, and confidence to the playing field, the Cowboys should expect to have the same consistency under center for the near future.
Do you think Biadasz will become an anchor in the middle of the offensive line for the Cowboys in 2021? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.