Catching a glimpse of week five’s match-up between the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams likely left feelings of envy for many Dallas Cowboys fans. Week five’s Monday night’s game between the Houston Texans and New York Jets did the same. We all know the old adage of hindsight being 20/20 and being disappointed in the Dallas Cowboys selection of Tyron Smith ninth overall in the 2011 NFL draft. There is no question that the Cowboys had offensive line issues in 2011 after Tony Romo was sacked a career high 36 times that season and is on pace to be sacked 32 times this season. Did the drafting of Tyron Smith fix an issue that has been lingering for the Cowboys for the past three seasons? Doug Free a (-2.0) ProFootballFocus.com rating in 2011 while serving as left tackle allowed 10 sacks, 5 hits, and 34 hurries on Romo last season. This season Tyron Smith despite boasting a (-5.2) PFF rating on the season did finish with a (+3.4) while allowing a single sack against the Chicago Bears.
Will Tyron Smith eclipse or best Doug Free’s sack total for 2011? Only time will tell. Yet, how would fans have felt and how would the team’s current status appear assuming the Cowboys would have selected a top tier pass rushing end in 2011 or even in this past April’s NFL draft? Understandably no one could foresee Anthony Spencer injury issues and the opportunity to draft a highly ranked defensive back most assuredly can’t be questioned as it was a means to an end. The offensive line stats were simply to quantify the tackle play up to this point in 2012 and ask “what if” and compare it to the “what is”.
What if the Cowboys would have drafted a pass rush end this season or even last. Well to begin there is currently no player from the 2011 NFL draft class starting at left tackle that would have been available when the Cowboys selected in the 2nd round of that year’s draft. Also after the second round of the NFL draft there was no tackle selected that is currently starting for any team in the league at left tackle. So there is that and it seems to be an open and shut case for the drafting of Tyron Smith in 2011. Unless of course you consider the fact that the Houston Texans drafted defensive lineman J.J. Watt, with a blistering PFF rating of (+35.4) and already has 9 sacks to accompany his 8 batted passes, two picks later and the St. Louis Rams selected defensive end Robert Quinn (+1.9) who already has six sacks this season playing opposite pass rushing threat Chris Long. How nice would Quinn have been?
We can toss around stats and ask what if all day but that isn’t the point. The Cowboys played a tough opponent in the Baltimore Ravens yesterday. The offensive line finally showed up allowing only one sack on Tony Romo and rushing for 227 yards which had never been done against the Ravens. The Cowboys have definitely played a tough five game stretch and clock management could definitely be blamed yet again for yesterdays loss but regardless the Dallas Cowboys next eleven games will be much easier a stretch than the past five games.
After DeMarcus Ware sacked Joe Flacco only once yesterday and the Cowboys allowed Ray Rice to rush for two touchdowns it appears that the Dallas Cowboys will still need to make both the offensive line and the defensive line top priorities in the 2013 NFL draft until then D-Ware and Tyron Smith will have to continue to be the only shining stars on opposite sides of the line of scrimmage.
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