2010 Cowboys Offensive Line: Individual Grades And Possible Free Agents

Without an efficient offensive line, it becomes very difficult to move the football, and even the best offensive players can struggle to produce without effective pass protection or holes to run through. This is not rocket science.

Many fans are baffled by why the Cowboys didn't use the draft and free agency last year to address what was widely perceived to be multiple immediate needs on the offensive line. A part of the answer to that may be found in how the coaching staff graded the players on the offensive line last year.

Now wouldn't it be nice if we knew the actual grades the Cowboys hand out for each player? Not likely to happen, but in Profootballfocus (PFF) we do have access to a data source that does a similar exercise for all NFL teams. 

Today we look at the individual grades for our linemen and bring our detailed series about the Cowboys run and pass blocking to a close.

Once again, we'll use the Profootballfocus (PFF) data for this review. Please refer to the running back position review if you are unfamiliar with their metrics.

Overall Grade Cowboys Linemen:

Below are the PFF grades for the Cowboys' linemen.

Player POS NFL Rank # of snaps 2010 Overall Grade Pass Block Screen Block Run Block Penalty '09 Grade 09 Snaps
Doug Free
LT 3/39 1,105 17.9 2.6 1.0 17.8 -3.5 5.6 571
Kyle Kosier
LG 13/41 849 2.2 4.2 1.0 -3.9 0.9 15.9 1,098
Andre Gurode
C 6/34 1,105 13.2 3.9 3.5 8.6 -2.8 12.7 1,093
Leonard Davis
RG 8/40 1,077 6.7 2.6 2.0 1.6 0.5 13.4 1,098
Marc Colombo
RT 36/37 1,027 -34.1 -25.0 1.5 -8.1 -2.5 6.1 544

Note that NFL rank refers to the rank at the specific position, e.g. left tackle or right tackle. In this example, Doug Free grades out as the third best left tackle overall behind the Bengals' Andrew Whitworth (+24.6) and the Dolphins' Jake Long (+24.3). Among all tackles he would rank fourth, with the Giants RT Kareem McKenzie (+23.6) edging him out. The guard position is similarly split into left and right guards.

There are a couple of things of note here that we've partially touched on in the previous four posts on the O-line:

Significant drop vs. 2009: Free is obviously the bright spot on the line, as he built on his 2009 performance. Gurode maintained his above average grade from last year. Many people may disagree with Gurode's Pro Bowl nomination, but he did grade out as the best center in the NFC. That that may nit mean much is a completely different issue. Davis, Kosier and especially Colombo declined significantly versus 2009.

Uneven run blocking: Although Free's and Gurode's grades provide some highlights in runblocking, the holes the other three left in their blocking performance contributed to an overall uneven performance in the run game.

Average pass protection, at best: The grades for the four linemen to the left of Marc Colombo are all green, but they are also all just barely above average. Add Colombo's grade to the mix and the the Cowboys are ranked 16th in pass blocking by PFF. The screen game, likely born out of the frustration over the O-line's performance, ironically is where the line actually grades out decently.

Penalties remain an issue: According to Stats Inc., the Cowboys linemen were penalized 35 times in 2010. Only the Raiders linemen were penalized more often. That's only down by two penalties versus 2009, where the line still featured Flozell Adams at left tackle. PFF downgrade the Cowboys accordingly, and their cumulative penalty grade is the second worst in the league.

Garrett vs. Phillips

As we did in previous posts, here is where we break down the overall grades by the first and second half of the season:

2010
Doug Free Kyle Kosier Andre Gurode Leonard Davis Marc Colombo
Games 1-8
-1.7 -0.8
2.1 1.7 -16.5
Games 9-16
19.6 3.0
11.1 5.0 -17.6
Change +21.3 +3.8 +9.0 +3.3 -1.1

 

Overall, line play improved somewhat in the second half of the season according to the PFF grades. Doug Free clearly came into his own (as a run blocker) in the second half of the season, and Gurode improved as well. Kosier and Davis improved marginally upon an average first half performance, while Marc Colombo's grade remained subterranean any way you look at them.

Free Agency

Any way you look at it, the line needs an upgrade. The clearest need is obviously at right tackle. The Cowboys may opt to keep Colombo around for another year if for no other reason than to provide cheap insurance at right tackle, but based on what we've seen in 2010, it's unlikely that he'll start next season. Sam Young and perhaps even Robert Brewster will likely be an upgrade over Colombo, but that's not saying much.

The Cowboys could always try to shore up the right tackle spot via free agency, but their options might be very limited there. Below is a list of right tackle free agents and their PFF grades in 2010 and 2009. Slim pickings.

NFL rank Player Age Team Snaps 2010 Overall Grade Pass Bock Screen Block Run Block Penalty '09 Grade
2 Marshal Yanda 26 BLT 1021 17.4 4.2 0.5 10.6 2.1 -3.3
4 Tyson Clabo 29 ATL 1153 10.8 5 0 -0.4 6.2 6.6
- - Ryan O'Callaghan 27 KC 159 4.9 2.2 -0.5 2.2 1 -15.1
8 Sean Locklear 29 SEA 997 2 11 0 -8.1 -0.9 -1.2
11 Ryan Harris 25 DEN 668 -0.9 0.6 3 -4 -0.5 -1.2
18 Langston Walker 31 OAK 995 -3.6 -14.7 0 12 -0.9 -1.8
- - Corey Hilliard 25 DET 271 -4.4 -2.5 1 0 -2.9 - -
24 Jeromey Clary 27 SD 1104 -12.6 -8.9 0.5 -5.4 1.2 5.6
26 Stephon Heyer 27 WAS 384 -13.4 -8.3 0.5 -1 -4.6 -19.0
27 Wayne Hunter 29 NYJ 361 -13.4 -8.9 0 -0.7 -3.8 -4.4

Obviously, this table excludes the left tackle free agents, as I don't think it's realistic to expect the Cowboys to pay left tackle money for a right tackle. Barring a surprise free agent pickup the Cowboys will be best served at right tackle if they find a starter caliber player in the early rounds of the draft.

The situation at guard looks much more promising in free agency, and there are good and much cheaper alternatives to Logan Mankins and Carl Nicks around:

NFL rank Player Age Team Snaps 2010 Overall Grade Pass Bock Screen Block Run Block Penalty '09 Grade
1 Carl Nicks (RFA) 25 NO 1126 26.2 6.3 -0.5 20.2 0.2 24.9
4 Logan Mankins 28 NE 544 15.8 4 0.5 10.3 1 22.6
6 Harvey Dahl 29 ATL 1171 14.4 7.1 1.5 4.3 1.5 6
12 Justin Blalock 27 ATL 1171 9.4 1.1 1.5 1.3 5.5 -7.7
14 Mike Brisiel 27 HST 510 9.1 3.1 0.5 5.1 0.4 0.8
17 Richie Incognito 27 MIA 954 6.5 1.9 1.5 1.8 1.3 2.8
- - Evan Mathis 29 CIN 114 6.2 1.1 0.5 4.1 0.5 17
23 Chris Chester 28 BLT 880 3.9 1.5 2.5 -2.2 2.1 2.3
26 Kyle Kosier 32 DAL 849 2.2 4.2 1 -3.9 0.9 15.9
33 Will Montgomery 27 WAS 429 -1.2 2.8 0 -3.9 -0.1 -3.8

Some of these players are truly flying under the radar. A simple search of "Mankins" in the 31 non-Patriots SB Nation blogs delivers 3,679 hits, searching for "Blalock" in the 31 non-Falcons SB Nation blogs gets you only 370 hits.

What the Cowboys do at guard also depends a lot on what they do with Kyle Kosier, who is a free agent heading into next season. Do they re-sign him and look to phase out Leonard Davis? Keep in mind that Kosier helps out as a signal caller on the line and as such has a higher value than Davis. Also, if the maxim holds true that you should value pass blocking over run blocking, Kosier grades out as the third best available pass blocker among the free agents in the table above. Can he deliver for another year or two?

There are solid guards to be had in free agency, but the solution for the Cowboys at right tackle may need to involve a high draft pick. Unless the answer is already on the roster. But would you bet your QB's health on that? Again?

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