Monday, September 5, 2011
Eagles, Cowboys still shuffling lines
By Dan Graziano
See, the thing about those Saturday roster cuts is that they aren't final and some things you think are settled get changed within the first 24 hours after the cuts. So it was that Sunday was a busy-work day for teams still churning the bottoms of their rosters, claiming guys off waivers, bringing just-released players back for the practice squad.
The moves the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles made Sunday sent clear signals that neither team is yet comfortable with its offensive line situation a week before the start of the regular season.
The Cowboys cut veteran guard Montrae Holland, who you might remember looked like he'd been elevated to starting right guard after the team let go of Leonard Davis on the first day of free agency. Holland showed up out of shape, hurt his back and didn't play until the final preseason game last Thursday. During that game, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said on the TV broadcast that Holland had impressed the team with surprisingly good conditioning and made them feel better about their line depth. And when the cuts came in Saturday, Holland was not among them.
A day later, though, Holland was out, and the Cowboys are bringing in former Redskins lineman Derrick Dockery as a backup offensive lineman instead. Cutting Holland knocked about $1.5 million off the Cowboys' salary cap figure for 2011 and Dockery will serve as one of the backups on an offensive line that will start two rookies (left guard Bill Nagy and right tackle Tyron Smith) and a second-year center in Phil Costa. This is not, however, the kind of move that makes you think they're done making moves.
It's a little bit easier to surmise the motivation behind the line move the Eagles made Sunday to bring in former Colts guard Kyle DeVan. Eagles offensive line coach Howard Mudd coached DeVan in Indianapolis, knows him and knows DeVan knows his system. The Eagles are planning to start first-round pick Danny Watkins at right guard, but the rookie has struggled in preseason, and it's got to be comforting for Mudd and Andy Reid to know they have another veteran option to use in case Watkins doesn't show the kind of improvement they expect and need from him over the first few weeks of the season. DeVan also offers another option at left guard in case newcomer Evan Mathis doesn't work out on that side.
We might get into the season and find the concerns about young offensive linemen in Dallas and Philadelphia were overblown. The Cowboys and Eagles certainly hope so. But watching them work to make sure and cover themselves just in case, you realize the concerns aren't just external ones -- that these two teams have the same questions fans do about their lines.