Aug 16, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; (Editors note: Caption correction) Dallas Cowboys center Travis Frederick (72) and guard Zack Martin (70) on the sidelines during the game against the Baltimore Ravens at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
The touchdown strike to wide receiver Dez Bryant was easily the best example of how far this offensive line had come in just a week. Romo had been sacked seven times heading into the Rams game, and yet he was able to stand in the pocket for what seemed like an entire minute before launching the long touchdown pass to Bryant, who was wide open on the play.
What made the difference from last week to those previous this year?
How about the simple fact that Romo was on his feet long enough for Bryant to get that far down field in the first place, let alone throw a perfect pass some 50 yards in the air and also on target.
Possibly an even better example of the improved pass protection came in the second quarter as the Cowboys were simply trying to get points on the board before the half. The defensive pass interference penalty called against Cole Beasley was another play in which Romo bought time in the pocket despite already having had great protection from the snap.
How long you think it takes Beasley to get thirty yards downfield into the endzone?
In other words, Romo had time to get the ball downfield against St. Louis, and all it really took was for the Cowboys to stop turning the ball over for points to start showing up. Romo didn’t even have to throw for big yards or for many attempts in order to have a huge day. In fact, going 18 of 23 (78%) for 217 yards looks a lot like the kind of days Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman used to have.
Notice also that the Dallas running game is averaging 156 yards rushing per game on an average of 31 carries per contest. It should come as no surprise that starting running back DeMarco Murray is leading the league, not the conference, in rushing with 385 yards as the regular season approaches the one quarter mark.
Yes, the Cowboys are seeing the results of having prioritized an offensive line that had gotten too old and too expensive several years ago. With the likes of Pro Bowl offensive tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick, right guard Zack Martin—all first-round selections within the last four drafts—Dallas could very well be moving closer and closer to having one of the top offensive blocking units in the NFL.
Consider that the starting three along the interior of the line, which also includes third-year veteran but second-year player Ronald Leary, have a combined two years of starting experience. If they are able to handle the blitzing of Williams’ gambling defense the way they did against the Rams, it might not be a reach to ponder a Dallas upset of the New Orleans Saints this weekend.
Last season, Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan completely shut down the Cowboys offense less than a year removed from having coached in Dallas in 2011-12. He’ll be on the attack from his 3-4 scheme hoping for a similar result as last season’s 49-17 blowout in Louisiana.
If the Cowboys offensive line can help reverse last season’s embarrassment, it might be tough argue against Dallas having the best offensive line in football right now.