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Cowboys counting on lineman Asim Richards' position flexibility

The Dallas Cowboys needed depth for their offensive line and they hope to have found it with fifth round selection Asim Richards at the NFL Draft.

DALLAS — While the Dallas Cowboys' selection of Asim Richards with pick No. 169 overall in Round 5 of the 2023 NFL draft seems to be shoring up swing tackle, the former North Carolina product will arrive in Dallas with the goal of helping out the offensive line as a whole.

The Cowboys took the third-team All-ACC tackle with the intention of playing Richards inside at guard, or at least to acclimate the 6’-4”, 310-pounder to the speed along the inside.

"It just happens a lot quicker," Richards said via conference call April 29. "The defender gets their hands on you a lot quicker than on the outside because on the outside you have some time. There’s a lot more space, but I think I can handle that. I’m quick enough on my feet to be able to be on those guys, and I just got to get my hands right. That’s what I’ve been working on so I’m able to handle it.”

Coach Mike McCarty is counting on Richards' abilities to play inside at guard as the team looks at how to construct the roster throughout offseason workouts and training camp.

"He definitely has position flex," McCarthy said. "So I think the biggest thing is—we’ve talked repeatedly in here—is the ability to play tackle and move down to guard. Position flex is so important."

One of the premier instances where Richards, who had over 1,000 snaps for the Tar Heels last season and surrendered just three sacks, was able to demonstrate his position flex was at the 2023 Senior Bowl. Richards worked along the inside and took instruction and direction from NFL position coaches, which is one of the benefits of the all-star game.

Credit: AP
National offensive lineman Asim Richards of North Carolina (67) during the first half of the Senior Bowl NCAA college football game Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, in Mobile, Ala.. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

"I think it definitely showcased my versatility for sure," said Richards. "I’ve been playing left tackle my whole career at North Carolina. When I was able to step into that right guard role, that left guard role, that was just a boost for my value. I’m just glad I got the opportunity to show off my skill set.”

Richards is following a plan that the Cowboys laid out for last year's first-round pick, Tyler Smith. The Tulsa product played left tackle in college, but Dallas kicked Smith inside at left guard for the spring and preseason. When All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith tore his hamstring midway in mid-August, the Cowboys kicked the younger Smith out to left tackle where he started all 17 games. 

As the Cowboys' offensive line took on even more attrition, even with the return of Tyron Smith, the ability for the line to adapt and change roles was a key part of Dallas' 12-5 record which was followed by a wild-card win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"The numbers are clear," said McCarthy. "They have to have [position flex] — that 17th game of the season is clear. I talk about it all the time, I know it’s been said over and over again. I thought the way we really put the emphasis on the line of scrimmage was excellent and that was part of it."

Do you think the Cowboys’ offensive line is in better shape after the draft? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.

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