Despite what some people are saying, the Cowboys as a team are not in rebuilding mode. However, their offensive line is in the middle of what appears to be a two year overhaul and is definitely a work in progress right now. They are set at the tackle position with Doug Free and Tyron Smith. Naturally, Andre Gurode is the center — as long as he’s healthy. That leaves the guard position as the big question mark. We know that Kyle Kosier will be one of the starters, but we don’t know for sure which side he will play. And, the even bigger question mark is who will be the other starter.
So far this preseason, Bill Nagy, Phil Costa, and David Arkin have all seen time with the first team, with Arkin receiving the most plays. The guy we haven’t seen at all is Montrae Holland and he was the frontrunner once they cut Leonard Davis. But, maybe it’s time the Cowboys moved on without Holland. When he’s in decent shape, Holland can be a serviceable run-blocker, but he’s pretty atrocious when he’s protecting the quarterback. He’s strong, but doesn’t move well. And, even though he’s a decent straight ahead run-blocker, he isn’t quick enough to be an effective pull guard. That limits what the team can do on offense. If they can execute on traps and counters this year, Felix Jones will have a huge season.
One has to question whether or not Holland really wanted the starting job this year. Everyone knew that Leonard Davis would probably be a cap casualty and that his position would be up for grabs. Yet Holland showed up to camp fat and out of shape. Naturally, he immediately hurt his back and we haven’t seen him since. If he doesn’t want to play, then the Cowboys probably shouldn’t want him to play either.
This comes down to accountability. The NFL is a cutthroat business. On well run teams, if a player doesn’t take enough pride to get himself ready for the upcoming season, he gets cut. I realize that Holland comes with a cheap price tag, and, when healthy, will at least provide some depth. But, you have to wonder if the Cowboys would be better off with a hungry Bill Nagy backing up the position. Either way, if Holland doesn’t get back on the field soon, that decision may become a very easy one.
Aside from Holland eating a few too many donuts this offseason, the Cowboys should probably give the job to Arkin just so they can get more athletic. That’s been a huge problem with the Cowboys’ offensive line pretty much since the 90’s. In the 2007 and 2009 playoffs, the Giants and Vikings were able to take advantage of the Cowboys’ lack of athleticism. Tony gets so much criticism for those losses, but it was the offensive line that let the team down. However, if they insert Arkin into the position, they will have significantly upgraded the athleticism at three positions in less than a year. Free, Arkin, and Tyron Smith are all young with the ability to move their feet. If things go as planned, they will anchor this line for years to come.
It’s important that the Cowboys get this right. They need to avoid ducting taping a problem spot and make the decision that will most help the franchise in the long run. If they can quickly develop Arkin and Smith, the line will go from a big problem to a big strength.