- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas -- At least Dallas Cowboys offensive line coach Bill Callahan isn't trying to put lipstick on a bunch of pigs.
The Cowboys are tied for last in the NFL in scoring, lead the league in false starts and are coming off a game in which the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat up quarterback Tony Romo and dropped the Dallas tailbacks for losses eight times. The offensive line's performance is arguably the Cowboys' biggest problem at this point of the season.
"I'm not going to sugarcoat this," Callahan said. "We did not play well, and we are not playing well right now."
The team's highest-paid member of the line, right tackle Doug Free, agrees with Callahan's sentiment.
"It needs improvement, definitely," Free said Wednesday. "I haven't pass-protected well enough, (we) haven't run the ball well enough and (I) definitely contributed to (that with) what I've done. I don't think I've done a good enough job and we got to get it fixed, and I have to fix it and I have to take the good coaching and keep working the techniques that I have been taught and really focus on it."
Callahan, however, is staying positive. He praises his linemen's diligence and work ethic. He says he's seen good things from each guy and was especially pleased with left tackle Tyron Smith's performance against Tampa Bay.
Yet Callahan acknowledges there have been plenty of painful moments for the line. And all five starters have stunk it up at times.
Besides Free, Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings, the guards added in free agency, had woeful performances against Tampa Bay. Center Ryan Cook, picked up off the scrap heap at the end of preseason, has had some struggles. And Smith, who leads the NFL in false starts, got dominated by the New York Giants' Jason Pierre-Paul in the season opener.
Free is confident he can fix his mistakes.
"It's been a little bit of a challenge, but it's nothing that I can't handle," Free said. "It's nothing that won't get taken care of."
It will only get tougher for the Cowboys' offensive line against a terrific Chicago Bears front seven that comes to town for "Monday Night Football."
"No question. We're up for that," Callahan said. "We've got to man up and do our best. We're up for that challenge, and we've got great respect for what's out there. But we know what's in front of us. We know that the crowd coming in here on Monday night is going to be our biggest challenge to date, so we've got to play better."
Callahan thinks the Cowboys have the personnel in place to be a quality offensive line. He believes in the scheme, pointing out that he's put four kids through college with his zone blocking attack. He sees a lot of mistakes that he thinks can be corrected.
"We've certainly got the talent," Callahan said. "So it's all technical."
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