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Friday, January 6, 2012
What Went Wrong: Offensive line play

By Calvin Watkins

This is the final installment in ESPN Dallas' five-part series on things that went wrong for the Dallas Cowboys in 2011.

No. 1: The offensive line struggled

Looking back it was too much to ask of the Dallas Cowboys offensive line. Protect Tony Romo with three players who never started a NFL game and two rookies. Just too much.

The Cowboys offensive line battled through injuries and ineffective play for most of the 2011 season. Left tackle Doug Free moved from the right side to the left in 2011 and was credited with 10 sacks allowed, including six the last four weeks of the season. Free didn't display the strength and athletic ability needed on a consistent basis to contain speedy pass rush ends.

The middle of the Cowboys line had troubles as well. It started when guard Bill Nagy went on injured reserve in October with a fractured ankle, backup Derrick Dockery suffered a knee injury that kept him out for weeks and Montrae Holland returned to the team after getting cut in training camp due to a back and weight issues.

Kyle Kosier, the starting right guard, battled a foot injury the bulk of the season.

If the Cowboys had made the postseason, Holland (biceps) and Kosier (knee) would be lost due to injuries.

Center Phil Costa had some snap issues and didn't play with a lot of power at times. The team does like Kevin Kowalski and might give him a chance to start next season.

Tyron Smith, the right tackle, was the bright spot. But he had some issues at times dealing with athletic defensive ends, but Smith has tremendous upside and could move to left tackle next season.

The Cowboys made several moves after the lockout, cutting veterans Andre Gurode, Marc Colombo and Leonard Davis, for younger players. And while the Cowboys knew it would have growing pains, the offensive line should have performed better.