Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Jerry: Experienced O-line got QB knocked out
By Tim MacMahon
A year ago, Jerry Jones trumpeted the value of an experienced offensive line. Man, has he ever changed his tune on the topic.
The Cowboys cut three longtime starters to make room for a pair of rookies and a second-year undrafted free agent, but Jones doesn’t consider the lack of experience to be a significant concern for the offensive line. He prefers to focus on the upgrade in athleticism with the lighter, quicker trio of Tyron Smith, Bill Nagy and Phil Costa replacing Marc Colombo, Leonard Davis and Andre Gurode.
“Let’s keep in mind the experienced offensive line got our quarterback knocked out, or was a big part of getting our quarterback knocked out, early on in the season and that really hurt us,” Jones said during a Tuesday appearance on KRLD-FM, the team’s flagship station. “Not that we were playing well to begin with. So it’s not that our experience kept us from doing the one thing that you really want to do, and that’s get your man or at least get in front of your man. What you’re going to see is a likelihood of more getting in front of your man, less people coming free.”
Actually, Romo suffered a broken collarbone when then-rookie fullback Chris Gronkowski made a mental bust on a blitz pickup. But you get Jerry’s point about the poor performance of last season’s offensive line.
“The less we can see somebody coming free, the sounder we are and the better chance we have I think of having our quarterback with us the entire season,” Jones said. “That had a lot to do with these decisions. We had a lot of coming frees last year.”
Regarding Gurode’s release, Jones acknowledged that finances were a factor. However, he indicated that the Cowboys considered asking Gurode to take a pay cut, but did not seriously pursue the matter because of “the issue we call progress.”
Jones left no doubt that the Cowboys consider Costa a better center than Gurode at this point.
“You should look at this one based on the facts as you see them,” Jones said. “You saw Phil Costa step up and for all practical purposes win the starting job at center. Win it heads up as we come into the start of the season. Then you saw the reality of having a significant salary for a backup player.”
Jones also reminded that Doug Free was considered by many to be the biggest question mark on the offensive line as he entered his first season as the starting left tackle a year ago. Now, Free is fresh off signing a four-year, $32 million contract and is widely considered at least an above-average player at the line’s most important position.
As far as the Cowboys’ offensive line is concerned, it’s better to have some young question marks than the wrong answers they had last season.