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So many questions and concerns when it comes to the Cowboys offensive line

One of the biggest concerns after the 2011 season was the state of the Cowboys offensive line. On many occasions last season it seemed as though opposing teams were in the Cowboys backfield more than the Cowboys were. Without a solid offensive line the running game suffers which then leads to problems with the passing game. Even with all the moves the Cowboys have made with the line this off season there are still so many questions and concerns about whether or not the line will be improved in 2012. The Cowboys announced that Tyron Smith and Doug Free will be switching sides at tackle and then they went out and signed guards Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings through free agency. There is also a question about the center position as well and if Phil Costa, who struggled at times in 2011 will hold onto the job. Should Cowboys fans really expect improvement in 2012 with all these questions still out there or should it be considered a work in progress? With so many changes coming there has to be a level of concern.

Let’s start with the tackles. Tyron Smith had a solid rookie season playing on the right side and now the Cowboys believe he is ready to move to the left side to protect Tony Romo’s blind side. That means Doug Free who struggled at times in 2011 will move back to the right side where he played in 2010. Can Smith, who is only 21 years old be expected to adapt quickly to the left side after being in the NFL for only one season? Will Free get back to how he played back in 2010 on the right side? Even though the tackles are set for the Cowboys offensive line there are still questions that can’t be ignored.

At the guard positions the Cowboys had players like Kyle Kosier, Montrae Holland, Bill Nagy and Derrick Dockery playing in 2011. All are gone from the team except for Nagy. With the contracts that Bernadeau and Livings signed one would think they would be stepping right in at the tackle positions. But hold on a minute, it was just announced that Bernadeau just had hip surgery that will keep him out until the middle of August if not longer. He is going to miss important time with the rest of the offensive linemen in the  OTAs and training camp. Although Bernadeau is a four year veteran how can he not fall behind the others and once he gets back on the field how fast will he be able to catch up? Livings is a four year veteran just like Bernadeau and will most likely start at the left guard position. Behind Bernadeau and Livings are players just waiting to show they can start for the Cowboys. There will be competition throughout camp between Bill Nagy, who only played in four games in 2011 before getting injured, David Arkin who was inactive all of 2011 and undrafted rookie free agent Ronald Leary. There is so much inexperience between those three players that it has to be a concern for the Cowboys.

Phil Costa started all of 2011 at center and looks to keep his job in 2012. But Jason Garrett has let it be known that the competition will be open. That means players like David Arkin and Kevin Kowalski will be given every opportunity to win the job the job at center. There was also reports that Bernadeau and Nagy were going to be tested at center, but now with Bernadeau’s injury that may not happen. As with the tackles and guards there are questions at center as well.

With this group of players who are either new to the team, inexperienced, playing different positions and not having played together, it’s going to be very interesting to see how things shape up for the Cowboys offensive line. For an offensive line to become solid they need to play together so that they can get to know each other and their tendencies. Whichever players become the starting five it’s going to take time for them to jell together. Time will tell if the Cowboys have made the right decisions heading into the 2012 season. New offensive line coach Bill Callahan has his work cut out for him as he tries to shape a line that will hopefully get the Cowboys to the next level. The Cowboys have a mix of players with experience like Free, Costa, Livings and Bernadeau and others who are young and inexperienced like Smith, Nagy, Arkin and Leary. Now it’s a matter of getting the right combination together to form the starting five. Hopes may be high with this group of players, but with so many questions and so much uncertainty it’s hard not to be concerned as the Cowboys move closer to the 2012 season.

Can You Replace a “Hotel” for Free?

One of the bigger questions we have heading into our quest for a sixth Lombardi Trophy is at one of the least heralded, yet most important positions on the gridiron. The quarterbacks blind spot is one of those positions that when a player is performing either at an acceptable to an excellent standard no one ever notices just how good of job they are doing. Alas, when said player is having more laundry thrown at them then the locker room towel boy or they are more jittery than a teenage boy on his first “non-parent” date everyone in the stadium and outside the stadium takes notice. In fact don’t be surprised to find out that some of the people sharing their opinions of how bad the player performed hasn’t even seen the game. Everyone becomes a critic at that point.

This off season though we were hoping to find a replacement for the “Hotel” either through the draft or even through free agency. Instead Father Jerry decided to see if we had the answer already on the roster. Granted there were some decent options in the draft but no one really at our draft selection that anyone would consider sexy. Time will tell whether or not Doug Free or the acquisition of Alex Barron will improve the situation any.

As far as Barron is concerned he is an option that might help us in possibly two or more spots. We traded away basically a player in Carpenter that had outlived his usefulness. He never really found his niche in Dallas after bouncing around all four linebacker positions in Parcell’s and Wade’s schemes. We have a handful of younger guys with some possibilities that basically made him very expendable. Barron needed a new place to hone his skills and Dallas not only gives him an opportunity to win the left tackle position but he can also have a chance at replacing Columbo on the right side as well. One important thing he will get is an above average offensive line guru in Hudson Houck. He has already proved he is pretty durable playing on a below average team in St Louis starting all but one game in the last four years. He has had less penalties over the last three years than Flozell has had by a margin of 8 to 13. That’s five less penalties a year averaging to almost a third less penalty than Flozell. As far as sacks go they are pretty much even six to five. He is younger and lets face it Flozell has lost a step and doesn’t have much left in front of him.

Free on the other hand looked great last year when replacing Columbo when he went down with injury he proved just how agile he was by running down field and throwing a block more than twenty yards down field. The part that worries me the most about him was when they put him in at left tackle in the Minnesota playoff game it all but sealed out demise. Columbo was a turnstile for Ray Edwards on one side and when Free came in Jared Allen was beating him like a rented mule. We were still in the game when Flozell went down but give up 20+ points without so much as a single point for your own to retaliate the effort can never give you hope to win a playoff game.

My thoughts going into the preseason are that Columbo is getting up there in age and frankly Free has already proven in my book that he can play that right tackle position well. Barron should be given every opportunity to win that left tackle position. If so with coaching like Houcks I think he will improve and be able to learn from not only one of the best coaches in the game but from the players around him. If he can stay steady with his stats its an improvement over last year but if he improves on those stats everyone will be saying … Flozell who?

Granted telling fans of opposing teams that your replacement at one of the most important positions on the field with words like Free and Barron might get a few chuckles out of them. That is of course until one or both of them are holding their teams top rusher in check for the entire game. On the other hand if neither pan out we could not only be kissing our chances of playing in a Super Bowl we host goodbye but we could also be checking out the left tackles coming out college come November, along with what coaches might be available to replace Wade as Jerry starts to clean house towards trying to rebuild.

Analyzing Alex Barron Trade; Keith Brooking Surgery Update

In the past few weeks, there has been a good deal of activity involving the Dallas Cowboys.

The first item of business is that Dallas traded inside linebacker Bobby Carpenter to the St. Louis Rams for offensive tackle Alex Barron.

Now, Bobby Carpenter is the only high draft pick made in the Bill Parcells era that truly was disappointing. He was a highly admired linebacker out of Ohio State, which is one of the premier college football programs.

Yet, in the four years he was here, he never was good enough for the coaches to give him the starting job. Some fans might say that Dallas never gave him a chance, but I disagree. You don’t draft a guy in the first round and not give him a chance. He had plenty of chances in preseason, in training camp, or in games where he had playing time.

There were questions about him being aggressive enough when playing. I can’t explain why he didn’t turn out to be a great player, but things like that happen.

I knew he was on his way out when Dallas drafted Penn State linebacker Sean Lee in the second round of the 2010 draft this past April.

Carpenter will get a chance to revive his career in St. Louis, while Dallas gets key offensive line depth.

I have every confidence in our offensive line, but the fact remains that if you don’t have a backup plan in the NFL, you are risking your team’s future.

The Dallas starters from left to right are: Doug Free at left tackle, Kyle Kosier at left guard, Andre Gurode at center, Leonard Davis at right guard, and Marc Columbo at right tackle.

However, our backups in Cory Proctor, Pat McQuistan, and Robert Brewster are either weak replacements or in Brewster’s case, unproven.

Dallas cut Flozell Adams this offseason due to his age, and the impact his salary would have this year. They have given Doug Free the chance to start at left tackle, but Jerry Jones, while he is a gambler at times, isn’t stupid.

Jones drafted offensive tackle Sam Young in the sixth round this past draft from Notre Dame, and completed the Carpenter trade for Alex Barron.

Barron was a first round draft pick for the Rams in 2005, one spot before Dallas’ Marcus Spears as a matter of fact, and he’s been solid. He has started in 74 out of 76 games he’s played in, and hasn’t been injured.

He’s 6-7, around 320, and tough. The problem he had last year was he was worse than our own Flozell Adams at false start penalties. He’s had 43 false start penalties in the pros. That is 215 total yards lost because this guy is moving before the ball is snapped.

Now, there may be some instances where a defensive lineman actually encroaches and Barron is wrongfully flagged, but not 43 times.

Still, Dallas is giving him a chance, and Barron has promised to stop the false starts. I don’t know if he’ll start. I doubt it unless he really shows up to training camp and just dominates the line of scrimmage because Free has earned his shot really, and I think Jerry Jones just wants to address depth.

In the end, I think the trade is a win for Dallas because even with his mistakes, I’d rather have Barron than the depth we have now starting in case a lineman gets hurt, and Bobby Carpenter was just going to waste away here.

Jerry Jones made a good trade here for the team.

Brooking’s Surgery

To view the lstest update on Keith Brooking’s knee surgery, please go here.

LSS Extra Points: Latest From Cowboys Land

Emmitt Smith

The last thing I want to do is wish summer away before it even gets here, but the Hall of Fame Game between the Cowboys and Bengals is less than three months away. It’s not so much the game I’m excited for, it’s the excitement of seeing Emmitt Smith going into the HOF. Emmitt Smith is my all-time favorite player and I’m going to enjoy watching him enter the Hall. There’s going to be lot of tears on that stage because that is how Emmitt Smith is. He is every emotional about things. One of my favorite things to watch is the moment Emmitt Smith and Daryl Johnston shared on the sidelines after Smith broke the NFL rushing record in 2002.

As reported by ESPNDallas.com, Emmitt Smith has chosen Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to be his presenter on August 7th. If Emmitt Smith’s speech is anything like Michael Irvin’s then there won’t be a dry eye in the house. There will be more about Emmitt in the coming months because he deserves all the praise in the world for being the best running back of all time.

Doug Free

The Cowboys new left tackle Doug Free is ready for whatever is thrown his way as the OTA’s begin next week. Especially since the Cowboys traded for Alex Barron this week. What makes players better is competition and Free knows that. Free replaced right tackle Marc Colombo last season for ten games and played very well, but all the so-called experts remember is how Free played in the playoff loss to the Vikings. I tend look at the overall picture and not just the one game. I do not believe that all season the Cowboys offensive line played well and then because of one game they all of sudden became a bad line. Let’s face it, the Cowboys ran into a better team that day in Minnesota. Whatever they tried to do didn’t work and things just kept getting worse for them as the game went on. If anyone remembers the move “The Replacements”, the quote from Keanu Reeves sums up the Vikings game very well for the Cowboys.

“You’re playing and you think everything is going fine. Then one thing goes wrong (Adams getting hurt). And then another. And another. You try to fight back, but the harder you fight, the deeper you sink. Until you can’t move… you can’t breathe… because you’re in over your head. Like quicksand”

Now Doug Free will move from the right side to the left side and he is ready for the competition that he will be facing as reported on ESPNDallas.com.

“I got a lot of hard work to put in and I’m obviously excited,” Free said. “Last year, getting a chance to play and I think playing pretty well, most people thought stuff like that, they definitely have some faith in me. It’s the other side of the ball [going from right to left], but I think I’ve proven that I can play.”

“The more people we got in the better, the better the competition, the better the offensive line,” Free said. “Like last year, with Marc going down, the more confidence you have, the better it is for your team.”

“Until you get out on the field and in a game situation in the regular season, you really don’t know what you’re getting into,” Free said. “So, getting out there [with] a chance to play was definitely an advantage for me. I couldn’t be more excited. Nobody plays to sit the bench, nobody plays to watch the games, everybody plays. They are working hard to play.”

Keith Brooking

Keith Brooking underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee three weeks ago, but should be ready for training camp come July as reported by ESPNDallas.com. The Cowboys know what Brooking can do and what a leader he has become for the defense, so I wouldn’t think they are worried about him missing the teams OTA’s. This will give the rookies and other young players like Sean Lee and Jason Williams a chance to show their stuff.

Roy Williams

Roy Williams has been saying all the right things when it comes to Dez Bryant and what he will add to the Cowboys offense. Let’s face it, Bryant is the Cowboys future and maybe the competition will do Williams some good after a not so good 2009 season. Williams announced that his dropped passes will be a thing of the past this season. He dropped eight passes in 2009 (Why did it feel like he dropped a lot more than that?). If Williams turns into the receiver that he believes he is and what the Cowboys believe he is, then it will just make things better for the entire offense.

“I bet anybody in this world I won’t be close to that [in 2010],” said Williams about his dropped passes in 2009

Preseason

In another month what will all the preseason magazines say about the Cowboys in 2010? Will they be Super Bowl favorites? Will they be a struggling team in the NFC East in 2010 because of all the changes in Washington or because the Giants are back? All I know is that the Cowboys have put themselves in great position to challenge for a home game in Super Bowl XLV.

LSS Extra Points: Carpenter On The Move, Felix Snags #1 RB Job

Boys Will Be Boys

According to Rotoworld, the Rams and Cowboys are reportedly discussing a swap of OT Alex Barron for LB Bobby Carpenter. Both players have been first-round disappointments and are known to be on the trading block. The Cowboys believe that second-round selection LB Sean Lee is ready to step into Carpenter’s role. The only thing standing in the way is working out the contractual kinks, but a deal can be announced as soon as today.

The Cowboys feel confident that Felix Jones can handle the workload as the featured back this season with Marion Barber filling his familiar role as the closer in short yardage situations or at the goal line. Until now, Jones has primarily acted as a change of pace back for the Cowboys, but has had some impressive long runs and has exhibited game-breaking speed to go with an overall electrifying style of play. Jean-Jacques Taylor of the Dallas Morning News projects 8-10 carries per game for Marion Barber and 12-15 for Felix Jones.

According to a quote that appeared on ESPN, Cowboys’ center Andre Gurode had some glowing remarks about Doug Free who will replace Flozell Adams on the offensive line.

“I think Doug will do just fine. I’ve been around Doug his whole career and when he first came in he was a high-motor guy, real nervous, but you could see so much potential. To see him go on the field last year and do some of the things he did, it didn’t shock me. He went out there and did his thing. He just waited for his opportunity and he did the best with it when it came.”

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was enshrined into the Boys & Girls Club Hall of Fame. In an event that was celebrated at Cowboys Stadium last night, Jones told the audience about how he grew up in the Boys & Girls Club of Arkansas since he was five years old. Cowboys running back Tashard Choice and tight end Jason Witten were among the players and coaches who attended the event that awarded $20,000 dollars to eight local winning finalists.

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo will be a special guest star on the hit reality series, NBC’s The Biggest Loser. In an episode that airs Tuesday, May 11 at 7:00 PM, Romo talks about how they have become inspirational role models and joins them and the trainer for a hike. Romo shot the segments with the cast in February.

Behind Enemy Lines

Former Cowboy Pacman Jones is expected to sign a deal with the Cincinnati Bengals according to several reports. Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer said of Pacman, “I’ll be on him at all times.” Defensive tackle Tank Johnson, has spoken to Pacman, and Johnson says that Jones is “ecstatic” about joining the team. Johnson and Jones were teammates two seasons ago in Dallas.

Former Giants star Lawrence Taylor was arrested today for allegedly raping a 16-year-old girl at a Rockland County hotel, authorities said. Taylor, 51, who lives in Pembroke Pines, Fla., was taken into custody by Town of Ramapo cops after being accused of raping the teen at the Holiday Inn in Suffern, police said. The two-time Super Bowl champion will be charged with third-degree rape, a charge that involves having intercourse with a minor.

Despite being drafted by the Denver Broncos at the end of the first round, quarterback Tim Tebow sold more NFL jerseys than any other player in the league for the month of April. The NFL’s top pick, Sam Bradford, was 9th in jersey sales. Donovan McNabb’s Redskins’ jersey was 2nd.

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