Last week I pinpointed the priorities for The Dallas Cowboys this offseason, and no surprise to any it began with the Offensive Line. This week I must elaborate on and give insight on priority number 1, and the many ways that this organization can fix the offensive woes that have plagued them in recent memory.
Now that Tony Romo is signed, sealed, and delivered to the Cowboys for the foreseeable future, they need to protect this investment with calculated prowess. No matter how you may feel about the decision to make Romo a “100 million dollar man”; if you’re smart, you know that he needs help. Last year Tony Romo threw the ball 648 times for almost 5,000 yards. That is roughly 100 more times than he’s ever thrown before. Tony also threw 19 interceptions and was sacked 36 times. It isn’t even remotely conceivable to believe that the lack of protection hasn’t led to some of those interceptions. In fact the Tampa game would have done major damage to a pocket-passer, and though Romo got crushed many a time, he kept on ticking and led the team to victory.
The one thing Tony Romo has never had in his career is a 1,000 yard rusher, now some may be saying “big deal”, Aaron Rodgers wins without a stout running game. That is true, but folks; Tony Romo isn’t Aaron Rodgers, nor is he Drew Brees, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. The truth is that he is much like the Quarterbacks that have donned the Blue Star before. Troy Aikman had Emmitt Smith; Roger Staubach had Duane Thomas then Tony Dorsett. That is precisely why this team needs to get this running game going. The Cowboys are best served with Romo throwing 25-30 times a game and a complimentary running game with 25-30 carries.
There have been quotes from Jerry Jones and Stephen Jones regarding Tony Romo becoming a “bigger” part of the game plan every week. That is a brilliant idea, last year this team did very well in 2-minute drill situations. A lot of NFL teams like the Ravens and Patriots have adopted the “no-huddle” approach from Peyton Manning with much success to follow. Dallas has young, fast and talented receivers to make the “no-huddle” work well, but there is room for improvement in play-action formations. In order for play-action to work, defenses must be kept honest and have to account for the running game. The porous play by the offensive line in recent years has left this offense handicapped and has forced Tony to be accounting for way more than he should.
Though it has been lamented the importance of upgrading pieces on the offensive line, too many are starting to fall in love with the idea of getting a Safety in the 1st. The concept is understandable and no fan would object to getting another “ play-maker” in the secondary but the position is pretty deep even into the 4th round. In honesty, the Cowboys need to select a Guard or Offensive Tackle in the 1st because after Barrett Jones in the 3rd round, things start to slim down; and the chance of finding a starter begins to drop. The Dallas Cowboys need to hit on this year’s 1st and 2nd round selections, because those picks need to be day one contributors. It seems odd that neither Andre Smith nor Eric Winston have signed with any team, but the longer it takes the more desperate they will become, and that is a good thing for The Dallas Cowboys. Winston, whom would be a fit most, has a legitimate chance to possibly become a Cowboy. Bryan Broaddus from DallasCowboys.com mentioned that this team had interest in him, but only time will tell. Doug Free is a possible June 1st cut, and if not Winston than who? Parnell is a swing tackle, not a starter. If the Cowboys do not sign a free agent then maybe they go all in for the 1st and 2nd round picks to be Offensive Lineman.
The NFL Draft is 2 ½ weeks away, and I haven’t weaned off my stance that fixing this line will go a long way to fixing this team’s record. 2007 was arguably the best offensive line Tony Romo had, the results? This team went 13-3, was the NFC’s number 1 seed; and lost in The Divisional Round when Patrick Crayton dropped a sure-fire touchdown pass. 2009 saw The Dallas Cowboys make a miraculous run to end the season at 11-5 and secure their first playoff win in 13 years; but saw their dreams fade when Romo was sacked 6 times by The Minnesota Vikings the following week after Flozell Adams left the game injured. Say what you will about Flozell Adams but he fought hard for Tony Romo; however 2009 was the beginning of the deterioration of the Cowboys Offensive Line. 2010 saw Tony Romo breaking his clavicle and finishing the year on IR after 6 games. Are you starting to follow along now?
In order for The Dallas Cowboys to start winning more games and to firmly step into the playoff picture, the Offensive Line is going to need a face-lift The Cowboys can ill afford more band-aids on the glaring boo-boo’s this team has been suffering. There are needs in other areas that are not necessarily offense related and I understand that; however there is nothing that can convince me otherwise that Safety is more important than this Offensive Line. The Dallas Cowboys must finally make due on the “Romo-Friendly” promises that have been spewed out every offseason since Terrell Owens’ departure. The Cowboys will only go as far as Romo can lead them; he can’t lead the Cowboys if he is sacked 36 times, because nobody can lead this team to the promise land on Injured Reserve. The Dallas Cowboys need some quality players up front, and if they accomplish that they will surely make the playoffs and DeMarco Murray will do what no Cowboy Running Back has done since 2006: rush for 1,000 yards.