What Went Wrong, No. 4: Offensive line woes

January, 8, 2013
1/08/13
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Our five-part series on what went right and what went wrong for the Cowboys continues with No. 4:

The Cowboys' offensive line problems started in training camp, when center Phil Costa struggled with his snaps and then his health. He lasted just three snaps into the season opener and was replaced by Ryan Cook.

As the season progressed, the Cowboys used three centers and four lineups.

Tony Romo
AP Photo/Tim SharpThe Cowboys offensive line struggled to protect Tony Romo this season as injuries took their toll. The Cowboys were among the NFL's worst in rushing, and they led the NFL with 27 false start/offside penalties.
In the first meeting with the Washington Redskins, the Cowboys missed left tackle Tyron Smith and Cook, and moved guard Mackenzy Bernadeau to center.

In the last four weeks of the regular season, right tackle Doug Free shared his starting spot with Jermey Parnell, and quarteback Tony Romo was moving around the pocket looking for time in the regular-season finale against the Redskins.

The Cowboys spent more than $30 million on two free-agent guards, Nate Livings and Bernadeau, and still had problems along the line.

Costa never finished the season, undergoing surgery to repair ligament damage to his ankle. Free's status with the team is in doubt because of his inconsistent play. Smith played uneven, though his future looks bright.

Penalties hurt this offensive line more than anything. The Cowboys led the NFL with 27 false start/offside penalties. Free led the league in total penalties for an offensive linemen with 14 and in false starts with eight.

Smith wasn't much better. He finished tied for second in the NFL with seven false starts.

The Cowboys tried to get younger along the offensive line this season but nearly benched two starters, Bernadeau and Free. The run game had its worst numbers during a 16-game season in franchise history with 1,265 yards.

There is hope in the future of guard Ronald Leary and Kevin Kowalski, and if Parnell takes over at right tackle full time in 2013 things could get better.
Calvin Watkins covers the Houston Rockets and the NBA for ESPN.com. He joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers as well as colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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