Judging by the current make-up of the offensive linemen playing for the Dallas Cowboys, I cannot help but wonder if the Cowboys ideas on offensive linemen are archaic and poorly conceived. I realize that the success of the great Cowboys teams of the nineties hinged on the mammoth offensive linemen of that time: Newton, Williams, Kennard, Tuinei, and Allen, to name a few. Those players protected Troy Aikman and blocked for Emmitt Smith on their way to three Super Bowls.
Hard to argue with what the Cowboys did in the nineties, but this is a new decade, a new millennium, and a new era of football. The team that can pass, and by extension pass protect, will generally win.
During the 2009 season, a quarterback passed for over 300 yards 97 times. Approximately 65% of the time, the team with the 300-yard passer won the game.
In 1994, the Cowboys passed approximately 45% of the time. In 2009, the Cowboys passed about 56% of the offensive plays.
Defenses have adjusted to the new offensive philosophies by getting more pressure players: lighter, quicker, faster linebackers and defensive ends that can get to the quarterback in a hurry. With the focus squarely on stopping the passing game, defensive coordinators have employed zone blitzes, stunts, and disguised coverages utilizing linebackers and safeties on a regular basis.
Perhaps getting a 340-pound tackle is not the way to go in this new NFL. Just sayin’…
Flozell Adams (340 pounds) has had a problem with speed rushers since Chan Gailey drafted him more than a decade ago. Colombo’s (320 pounds) immobility was exposed against the Vikings perfect storm: crowd noise gave Edwards an edge at the snap, Marc’s injury made his already slow-footed movements even slower, and Flozell’s injury led to less help available on that side.
The Colts’ Charlie Johnson, who is responsible for protecting the Colts Peyton Manning, is a svelte 305 pounds. Jermon Bushrod protects Drew Brees’ blindside and is just 315 pounds. Is it a coincidence that Manning was only sacked 13 times (fewest in the NFL) in 2009 while running the 2nd ranked passing offense in the NFL?
Maybe, but Brees was only sacked 20 times, fourth fewest in the NFL in 2009, and led the 4th ranked passing offense in the NFL. Both teams find themselves in the Super Bowl in 2010.
An argument can be made that smaller linemen negatively impact the running game, since Indianapolis gained fewer yards on the ground in 2009 then any other team in the NFL. The Saints, however, gained the 6th most rushing yards in the NFL: just ahead of the Cowboys (7th).
Also remember that Aikman was the prototype packet passer. Having an awesome offensive line made him a Hall of Famer. Romo can escape from the bigger defensive linemen and create downfield. It’s the corners (on blitzes) and the quick defensive ends and linebackers that can track Tony down and limit his creativity.
The current Cowboys line struggles with these speed rushers. It has struggled since 1997. Perhaps a philosophical change is in order.
Players such as Bruce Campbell from Maryland (6’ 7”, 310 pounds), or Bryan Bulaga from Iowa (6’ 6”, 310 pounds), should not be dismissed as possible replacements for Flozell Adams and Marc Colombo. Do not forget about Doug Free (6’ 6”, 315 pounds) either. He fits the mold of the new type of tackle that could help the Cowboys get to Arlington in 2011…um, I think you know what I mean…even though that’s where Dallas plays all the time.