Thursday, October 18, 2012
Progress for Cowboys' offensive line?
By Dan Graziano
The clear weak link of the team since the start of training camp, the Dallas Cowboys' offensive line had a big day Sunday. Bolstered by the return from injury of center Phil Costa, they blew Haloti Ngata and the Ravens off the line of scrimmage all day and paved the way for 227 rushing yards. Even right guard Mackenzy Bernadeau, who'd become a target of specific scorn from fans for his disappointing season, earned praise from coach Jason Garrett, who called it Bernadeau's best game so far as a Cowboy.
Now, offensive lines certainly can improve as the season goes along, and it's been pretty obvious for a while that the Cowboys' line only had one direction in which it could go. So should you take Sunday's performance as the encouraging potential start of a trend? Or an anomaly?
The case can be made for the latter. Baltimore's defense is 26th in the league against the run this year, allowing 136.5 yards per game on the ground. The Philadelphia Eagles' offensive line had its best game of the year in its Week 2 victory over the Ravens, and it has struggled since. So it's possible that Sunday for the Dallas line was something of a mirage, and that the problems from the first four games will pick up again soon.
But the glass-half-full way to look at it is this: Lines have to gel and perform together if they're going to succeed. Until Sunday, the Cowboys' line had not had a gameday experience together about which it could feel proud. It hadn't put much of anything on tape it could use for positive reinforcement. It had plenty of mistakes from which it could learn and grow, but very few examples of success. Now, it has those. And this week against Carolina, which ranks 23rd against the run, offers a chance for more.
Things have to get better on the offensive line, or else the Cowboys' offense simply can't work. So I think the best way for the Cowboys and their fans to view what happened Sunday isn't as a sign that their problems are over, but rather as a sign that things can get better -- and as a means of helping make them do so.