Compared to the amount of press the Dallas Cowboys receive as a whole — win or lose — Xavier Su’a-Filo doesn’t get a lot of attention. The 310-pound, six-year veteran of the National Football League deserves a closer look, especially as he potentially competes with Connor Williams for the starting role at left guard.
Time with the Texans
Signed by the Houston Texans to a four-year contract in 2014, Su’a-Filo was selected in the second round, 33rd overall. While never named to a ProBowl, Su’a-Filo was a workhorse. The offensive lineman was a constant in the Texans ever-changing lineup, starting every game at his position in 2017 and 31 of 32 games for the Texans during the 2016-2017 seasons.
Su’a-Filo was traded to the Tennessee Titans in April 2018 before being cut during training camp and signed by the Cowboys to a two-year contract in September of the same year.
Slotting in Su’a-Filo
The Cowboys’ starting left guard, Connor Williams, struggled in his first game as a rookie, giving up two sacks and having a hard time with pass protection against the Carolina Panthers. It didn’t seem as though Williams had ever been made to compete for his job as a starter, rather he was virtually declared as such the moment he was drafted. Despite some need for improvement, Williams started eight games before a knee injury sidelined him.
Enter Su’a-Filo as a starter. Su’a-Filo, though a self-professed “nice guy” off the field, has said “there’s only one way to play football — and that’s aggressive, physical and nasty.” And that’s exactly how he played.
In the matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles, Su’a-Filo ignited a debate about whether he should have been named the starter to begin with. Providing power on the interior, he played quite well, even against dominating players like Fletcher Cox. Su’a-Filo was instrumental in allowing Ezekiel Elliott to rush for 151 yards and stealing the game from the Eagles.
Though he was inconsistent the rest of the way, it might not be fair to judge him given his circumstances.
Another look necessary
Some criticism has been levied at Su’a-Filo for his performance in the Cowboys messy win over the New Orleans Saints on November 29. To be fair, the Saints were hot and it was always their matchup to lose. But with New Orleans looking uncharacteristically off their game offensively, the Dallas offense was unable to take advantage. Elliott rushed for only 75 yards (averaging only 3.3 yards per carry) while Dak Prescott was sacked 7 times in the 13-10 loss. While the game wasn’t a good showing for either team’s offense, it’s unfair to single out Su’a-Filo’s performance for the Cowboys struggles on offense.
Two weeks later, in an ugly shutout loss against the Indianapolis Colts, Su’a-Filo took a thumb to the eye, nearly swelling it shut. He then sprained his ankle during the Cowboys’ season finale against the New York Giants and was inactive for the team’s Wild Card win over the Seattle Seahawks.
Neither Su’a-Filo nor Williams deserve the D- and D grades respectively given to them by The Athletic. The carousel of injuries that rotated Williams and Su’a-Filo didn’t allow enough time for either the rookie or the veteran to be evaluated properly in the overall scheme of the Cowboys lineup.
Williams has certainly put in the work to get bigger and more powerful, but Su’a-Filo should not be overlooked, either. Training camp will provide a chance to evaluate both players in good health, as well as rookie third-round pick Connor McGovern. May the best guard win.
Kristy Koehler is a writer and editor for PFN covering the NFC East. You can follow her @kristyonsports on Twitter.