Dallas Cowboys: Offensive Line

Cowboys see finishers in rookie linemen

May, 2, 2011
IRVING, Texas -- For the first time since 1998, the Cowboys took three offensive linemen in a draft: Tyron Smith (first), David Arkin (fourth) and Bill Nagy (seventh).

As head coach Jason Garrett talked about each player, he mentioned how they “finished the play.” When he was a backup quarterback with the Cowboys in the 1990s, he saw linemen like Larry Allen, Nate Newton and Mark Tuinei finish the play.

When Garrett took over as interim head coach from Wade Phillips, one of his immediate changes was to put the players in pads for Wednesday practices. The hitting was not that much different but the mindset was, and the Cowboys ran the ball more effectively in the final eight games.

“You want a physical team,” Garrett said. “You want guys who play with emotion, passion and enthusiasm and it shows up in their play. When you have offensive linemen who can set the tone for your football team, that’s a good thing and a lot of that is how they come off the ball, how they get into their guy and then how they finish the play. You don’t want guys who block their guys initially and then watch the action. That’s not what you want. You want those guys to set the tone for the play and for your football team and finishing has a lot to do with that. That is an emotional thing but it’s also an athletic thing. You need to be athletic enough to finish plays and we feel like these guys are that when you watch them on tape.”

Offensive line not up to standards

February, 25, 2011
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Cowboys had some problems along the offensive line last year. Guard Kyle Kosier and tackle Marc Colombo each missed games due to injury.

Colombo missed the season opener as he recovered from minor knee surgery and Kosier did the same, but he missed two more games with an ankle injury. Colombo had his struggles with his play and Kosier did perform well.

The play of right guard Leonard Davis was called into question. He was benched in the Week 4 loss to Tennesee, but he did return later in that game when Montrae Holland suffered an eye injury.

Andre Gurode did get selected to the Pro Bowl, his fifth, but it appeared he didn't have his best season.

Then we get to Doug Free, who moved from the right tackle spot to the left side and performed well. Not well enough to get named to a Pro Bowl, but his efforts gave the Cowboys hope he has a future at the position.

Drafting a tackle or guard is a possibility this spring and Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi said he was the No. 1 tackle in the draft.

Age, four of the five linemen will be in their 30s, injuries and how they play could determine where and who the Cowboys draft.

"Like throughout our football team it wasn't up to standard," Jason Garrett said of the offensive line. "We were a 6-10 football team and we have to improve in all areas and the way you do that is you evaluate the personnel, you evaluate the scheme and then you try to implement some of those changes when we get back together again."

Free and Kosier are free agents and both would like to return.

It seems the Cowboys would place a franchise tag on Free, but Stephen Jones said it was doubtful if the organization would do it. The Cowboys could go for a younger talent at left guard over Kosier. But what do you do about the other positions? It's hard to replace four offensive linemen, so expect at least two changes to the line in 2011.

Packers' Bulaga should give Cowboys hope

February, 6, 2011
DALLAS -- As you watch Super Bowl XLV today check out Green Bay right tackle Bryan Bulaga. He is the Packers right tackle and will have a tough task in either Steelers outside linebacker, James Harrison or LaMarr Woodley.

He is also a rookie first-round pick.

When Mark Tauscher was lost for the season with a shoulder injury the Packers moved Bulaga in at right tackle after giving him time at left tackle and left guard. He ended up starting the final 12 games and has done a decent job.

So as you wonder about whether the Cowboys can find a rookie offensive lineman to come in and play, just think about Bulaga.

The last time the Cowboys had to start a rookie on their offensive line for the bulk of the season came in 2005 when sixth rounder Rob Petitti won the right tackle spot almost out of necessity. They love veterans, especially up front, but that could start to change – and frankly the thinking should change across the board with the Cowboys – in 2011.

The Cowboys have the ninth overall pick. Maybe there isn’t a top-flight tackle to take at No. 9 right now, but there appears to be at least three first-round tackles in the upcoming draft: Colorado’s Nate Solder, Boston College’s Anthony Castonzo and Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi.

Bulaga admitted there is an adjustment to make as a rookie but it was not so monumental that he needed a redshirt year.

“In college you’re going against players week in and week out that may not be as talented as the top guys,” Bulaga said. “Obviously in the conference not every team is stacked with the best players. That’s not how it is in the pros. Every week you’re going against the top pass rushers and now teams have two defensive ends that can do the same thing: get up the field and pressure the quarterback.

“It’s more adjusting to the scheme and how things are in your offense, the talk, the way you identify things. I know for me the challenge was picking up the lingo but once I got through the OTAs and studied it I was pretty comfortable. Then it’s the guys you’re going against. If you’re an offensive linemen getting picked in the NFL Draft then you’re a big, strong guy that has played good college football, but who you’re going against in the pros is a different story. You’re going against the best of the best every week. I think the challenge is more mentally really because the defenses are more complex. You’re asked to do a lot more things as an offensive lineman but it’s definitely possible.”’

Bulaga became the first first-round pick the Packers used on an offensive lineman since Ross Verba in 1997.

For the Cowboys you have to go back to 1981 to find an offensive lineman they took in the first round (Howard Richards, No. 26 overall).

Houck: Blame O-line for bad run game

December, 2, 2010
IRVING, Texas -- There are a lot of reasons the Cowboys’ running game ranks near the bottom of the NFL.

But the biggest problem is pretty simple. The Cowboys haven’t blocked well enough. Offensive line coach Hudson Houck bluntly said so himself.

“The issues are we’re not blocking very well,” Houck said. “Sometimes we don’t hit the hole, but particularly it’s the blocking. [It is] the timing of the run, the timing of the puller, all those things, just everybody working in concert at this particular point.”

The offensive line, which features four thirtysomethings, needs an offseason overhaul. But that’s not Houck’s immediate concern. He has his hands full trying to address the problems in the running game right now.

It definitely didn’t help matters that the offensive line had two starters -- left guard Kyle Kosier and right tackle Marc Colombo -- miss a lot of training camp, most of the preseason and the regular season opener. Kosier also missed a couple of games in October.

The lack of time working together prevented the veteran line from establishing a rhythm this season. They weren’t able to do that during the glorified walkthroughs Wade Phillips called practices during the first half of the season.

It’s no coincidence that the Cowboys have rushed for at least 100 yards in three consecutive games for the first time this season since interim coach Jason Garrett took over. The primary reason for practicing in full pads on Wednesdays is to work on the running game, and that change has paid off.

“I don’t think there’s any question about it,” Houck said. “That’s how it was here when Jimmy Johnson was here. That’s how it is with a lot of teams. Some teams don’t take the pads off the whole week. We’re not to that degree, but I think it does help. You can go faster and there’s no fear of getting hurt.”

The Cowboys’ rushing stats are still pretty ugly. They rank 27th in the league in rushing (89.4 yards per game) and are tied for 24th in yards per carry (3.8). Compare that to last season, when they ranked seventh in rushing (131.4) and tied for second in yards per carry (4.8).

Establishing the run is especially important Sunday against the Colts, who have the league’s 29th-ranked run defense and allow an NFL-high 4.9 yards per carry. That’s the best way to keep Peyton Manning on the sideline as much as possible and slow down the Colts’ pass rush, a pair of keys to the Cowboys’ upset bid.

Kyle Kosier is out with injury

October, 17, 2010
MINNEAPOLIS -- Cowboys starting left guard Kyle Kosier did not start the second half with a right Achilles injury. Montrae Holland has replaced him in the starting lineup.

Kosier will not return.

The Cowboys offensive line has been beaten up by injuries all season.

Starting right tackle Marc Colombo and Kosier missed the start of the season as they recovered from knee injuries and center Andre Gurode was nicked up by a knee injury in practice this week, but he did start vs. Minnesota.

Herm Edwards breaks down offensive line

September, 13, 2010

Herm Edwards analyzes the Cowboys' offensive line following the 13-7 loss to the Redskins on Sunday.

Leonard Davis misses the mandatory

June, 12, 2010
IRVING, Texas -- Cowboys starting right guard Leonard Davis missed the second day of the mandatory minicamp due to a personal manner.

Davis was given an excused absence because he had to attend a funeral.

The Cowboys used several different players in Davis' place, including starting center Andre Gurode. But coach Hudson Houck said don't read anything into Gurode replacing Davis. It was just for practice and won't be used for a game. Kyle Kosier got some first-team reps at center and Pat McQuistian played both guard spots.

Davis is expected to return on Sunday, the last day of the mandatory minicamp.

Montrae Holland contract numbers

May, 17, 2010
When the Cowboys re-signed guard/center Montrae Holland earlier this month, it gave the team more depth on the offensive line.

Now this is how much it will cost them. The entire deal is for two years worth $2.75 million.

Here's the breakdown:

2010 base salary is $900,000 and he receives a roster bonus of $350,000.
2011 base salary is $1 million and he receives a roster bonus of $500,000.

The list of Cowboys who were not here

May, 17, 2010
We're done with the organized team activities.

The media gets only one shot to look at the team until next week. However, a few people weren't here for a variety of reasons.

  • Wide receiver Terrell Hudgins missed because his school year hasn't finished.
  • Linebacker Stephen Hodge is recovering from microfracture surgery.
  • Defensive lineman Sean Lissemore missed Monday's session because school is still in session.
  • Tight end Scott Sicko and running back Lonyae Miller are in the same situation as Hudgins and Lissemore.
  • Linebacker Keith Brooking attended practice but is recovering from knee surgery.
  • Defensive end Marcus Spears had a personal day and will return Tuesday.

  • Nose tackle Jay Ratliffis around, however he is not working out as he recovers from surgery on both elbows.

  • Wide receiver Sam Hurd attended practice but in a limited role as he recovers from right thumb surgery.
  • Safety Akwasi Owusu-Ansah is here but is recovering from shoulder surgery.
  • Wide receiver Patrick Crayton told the team last week he was not showing.

  • Here's Wade Phillips on Crayton's status: "You just miss out on the individual techniques and working with your team. Those two things. It's competitive. I know he's a competitor, but I'd rather see him here. I'd rather him be here certainly, I rather have them all be here."

    Kyle Kosier is the backup center

    May, 17, 2010
    PM ET
    In a surprise announcement, coach Wade Phillips said starting left guard Kyle Kosier will be the backup center to Andre Gurode.

    The Cowboys need a backup center after they cut center/guard Cory Procter on Monday.

    The interesting thing about Koiser is that he's never played center in the pros or college. He's played every position on the line but center.

    Regarding the backup offensive linemen: Montrae Holland (guard) and Alex Barron (tackle) are projected to be provide support.

    "You really need a center/guard type if you take them to the game," coach Wade Phillips said. "Kosier could play the backup center and Montrae can go to the game, which he wasn't able to do before. It gives us a little stronger in that area as far as who we take to the game and so forth."

    Phillips said Holland playing center wasn't a good fit for the club. Travis Bright will also get some looks at backup center.
    The depth on the Cowboys offensive line was a concern coming into the offsesaon.

    But the team has made several moves to calm things down.

    It cut long-time left tackle Flozell Adams, it re-signed guard Montrae Holland to a two-year deal, it moved tackle Pat McQuistian from tackle to guard, praised the development of tackle Robert Brewster and traded for Alex Barron to compete with Doug Free at left tackle.

    Will these moves work out?

    Jerry Jones, the owner/general manager, thinks so.

    "To be candid with you, I’m no longer concerned about the offensive line at all," Jones said. "As a matter of fact, I like the mix because we haven’t done it where we have progress stoppers. You get a chance to see a guy like Brewster play."

    What's a progress stopper?

    Adams was one. A veteran player, past his prime, that was holding a starting spot where a younger player could have fit in. But the Cowboys didn't have a young player ready to move in, until Free emerged last year.

    Doug Free is ready to take over

    May, 12, 2010
    PM ET
    GRAPEVINE, Texas -- Ran into the new starting left tackle, Doug Free, on one of the holes during the Cowboys annual golf outing on Tuesday.

    Free has the new gig as a result of the Cowboys cutting left tackle Flozell Adams.

    Last year, Free took over for starting right tackle Marc Colombo (ankle and leg) for 10 regular-season games. When Adams was injured in the playoff loss at Minnesota, Free replaced him.

    "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."

    When the Cowboys traded inside linebacker Bobby Carpenter for tackle Alex Barron it raised some questions regarding their confidence in Free.

    The team still values Free but wants to add some competition to the offensive line.

    "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."

    There was some concerns about whether or not Free was ready to make the move up the depth chart. Pat McQuistan struggled to become the swing tackle, and in training camp Free moved past him.

    He was one of the more trusted offensive linemen on the team last year, and the Cowboys expect positive things from him again.

    "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."
    We thought newly acquired tackle Alex Barron signed a tender deal worth $2.621 million, based on his standings as a first-round pick with five accrued seasons.

    However, Barron's tender can be 110 percent of his previous year's salary -- which would result in a raise from $2.48 million to $2.73 million, according to the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

    A quickie mailbag for a Tuesday

    May, 11, 2010
    AM ET
    We normally have our mailbags on Mondays. But some of you are interested in what the Cowboys just traded for plus some other things.

    We have some leftover notes from the people, and the first one is a comment from John in Charlotte.

    [+] EnlargeAlex Barron
    G. Newman Lowrance/Getty ImagesAlex Barron will compete with Doug Free for the starting left tackle position but could wind up as the backup swing tackle.
    Q: Hey Calvin, this trade for Barron is purely to create some depth on the OL. He won't sniff the starting lineup without someone getting hurt. Doug Free is a tremendous athlete. Find me another offensive lineman who ran 30 yards downfield to make the final block on Felix Jones’ 49-yard TD run in week 17. That was an amazing display of talent for a 300-plus pound man, and don't forget he was ahead of Jones at the time of the block. Larry Allen is the only other linemen I've seen do that, and he did it on a Monday night game early in his career at New Orleans. Doug Free will start easily and have a great year barring injury. Let's hope that’s the case as I've read very little on this Barron guy to instill any confidence. -- John Byrne (Charlotte, N.C.)

    A: John, I think Alex Barron will be good for Doug Free. Now, Barron has underachieved big-time in St. Louis. It's almost as if the Cowboys are trading for a bad tackle in place of a bad linebacker. But that's not the case. Both guys need new places to play, especially Carpenter, who never fit in here on the field. As for Barron, he has at least started over 70 games, so he should challenge Free for the starting gig at left tackle. If it doesn't work out, you have Barron as the swing tackle and Robert Brewster as the other tackle on the active roster.

    Q: Hey Mr. Watkins, I just read your piece on the Cowboys’ preseason schedule and was curious as to why they play five preseason games. -- JT Carter (Gainesville, Texas)

    A: The Cowboys have five preseason games because they're playing in the Hall of Fame game, which is the opening of the preseason schedule. The Cowboys can open up training camp earlier than most teams because they're playing in this game. Wade Phillips said this is a positive thing because it gives the organization a chance to give more reps to some of those young players, especially those 2009 draft picks. Also, the Cowboys will have training camp in two different cities, San Antonio and Oxnard, Calif. Those dates have not been fully determined.

    Q: What is the plan for a field goal kicker? I heard a rumor that Buehler was going to take on that duty also. Do you think that is a good idea? -- Sam (Charlotte, N.C.)

    A: I don't know if it's a rumor, Sam, but David Buehler is the favorite to win the field goal job. Now, the team did bring in Connor Hughesto challenge Buehler for the job during training camp, however, kicking coach Chris Boniol was hired to help Buehler.

    The problem with Buehler is that, as the kickoff specialist, he didn't work on his field goal-kicking duties last season. Now he has to get his mechanics down to make sure the Cowboys can depend on him as the field goal kicker. He has the leg, but the ability to become consistent is the issue for him.

    Calvin Watkins covers the Dallas Cowboys and answers your questions and comments weekly. You can send questions and comments to his mailbag.

    Alex Barron expects to compete

    May, 10, 2010
    PM ET
    The Cowboys finalized a deal to send Bobby Carpenter, the underachieving inside linebacker, to the Rams for another underachieving player in tackle Alex Barron.

    It would seem this is a good deal for both teams.

    Carpenter needs a fresh start. He never caught on with the Cowboys, and playing in a 4-3 scheme will help him. As for Barron, he told ESPNDallas.com he would prefer to play left tackle rather than right tackle.

    Barron expects to compete with Doug Free for the starting left tackle position and will be here for the first day of organized team activites on May 17.

    In St. Louis, Barron struggled, especially last season.

    He committed an NFL-high 14 penalties and was third in the league in allowing his quarterback to get hit 15 times. He also gave up seven sacks, tied for 16th most in the league.

    Part of Barron's issues stemmed from numerous offensive line and offensive coordinators that were used in his time with the Rams.

    "It was a little different," Barron said. "Most the coaches wanted to teach you different things all the time. It had to be their way, instead of it just being about football. When that happens it makes it difficult."

    Barron said he was surprised the deal came down because he was a restricted free agent and those types of players don't get traded that often.

    But he's here now competing with Free for a spot at left tackle.