This is my first and maybe last attempt at writing a Fan Post. I‘m not an educated writer, nor am I a football expert. What I am is a fan of the game of football because I think it’s without a doubt the best team sport on the planet. I’m also fan of the Dallas Cowboys because they’re the best team on the planet in my biased opinion.
Over the years, I’ve become a student of people. In my former occupation (21 years US military) it was incredibly important to understand people; what causes them to succeed and what causes them to fail? How does one motivate a person? How does one get the most out of one’s mental and physical abilities?
I admit to not understanding the intricacies of playing any position on an NFL team, I illustrated above that my military past has made it possible for me to understand people and spot that right kind of guy a mile away. And there lies the reason for this post.
Football, better than any sport, reveals an individual’s character, physical talents, ability to be a member of a team and fit within a scheme. See, no single player, unlike basketball or baseball (I’m going to leave soccer out because I don’t know anything about soccer other than we didn’t play soccer when I was growing up in Texas) can take over a game and win it all by himself.
Drew Brees is an excellent quarterback but without his line playing together as a unit, he wouldn’t have the time to showcase his talent. For you older folks, let me remind you of one of the best quarterbacks to play the game of football; Archie Manning who played for a horrible team. Another example would be Sammy Baugh who started at quarterback for the expansion Dallas Cowboys; another horrible team. Lastly, Cowboys legend Troy Aikman who suffered through a winless season his rookie year before he started playing behind the greatest offensive line to ever play football and of course having the other two members we call "The Triplets" on his team helped a little too.
Does our Offensive Line have the RKGs on our roster to be effective this season? Why hasn’t Jerry Jones sought a free agent to shore up our line and replace Holland? I’m asking those question because that seems to be two of the most asked questions from the posters here at Blogging the Boys (BTB).
Along with answering those questions, I’ll try to provide some of the evidence that’s formed my opinions. What follows are my opinions and are not being represented as fact. I realize opinions vary on every topic. If any of you disagree, feel free to express yourself. All I ask is that you provide the reason(s) you have your opinion as I have. Who knows? Your reasoning might sway my opinion and better answer these questions for all of us.
I don’t have a problem with our left side of the OL because we’re returning Gurode, Kosier and Free. All are proven starters in the NFL and played together last year. Gurode and Kosier will start every game this year unless they’re injured. However, Costa and Nagy are breathing down their necks and providing the motivation for our starters to be better. Our other backup is Young and he’s going to be a serviceable swing tackle this year although he’s not pushing to start. All our backup linemen are big, tough and young. Costa probably leads the team in fights over the past two years. All the guys mentioned above are RKGs as evidenced by them being physically and mentally ready for camp. Our questions all lie on our right OL, so let’s look there.
Why is Holland still our starter at right guard (RG)? Can Arkin start at some point this year? Is Smith going to be a successful left tackle (LT) in his rookie year? Here’s what Jason Garrett had to say about what he and the position coaches are looking for from their young players.
Garrett says, "There are certain players on our team who have more ability than other players, but what we’re trying to get is to get everybody to be their best. If you’re a young player and you just got here and you don’t know the system and you’re less talented as one of these great players that we have on our team, really, what we’re trying to convey to that guy is the importance of being as prepared as you can be".
Otherwise, learn the system, know who you block and know your technique. The above applies fully to Arkin and partially to Smith.
Let’s first take a look at Arkin. He’s a Rookie with a lot of potential and he’s getting a lot of first team reps due to the late reporting of the veterans to camp and Holland’s various injuries. Arkin has all the physical and mental tools to be a starting RG in the NFL. He’s aggressive. Note that he had the spunk to get in a fray with the team’s meanest player in Jay Ratliff. Being a rookie, Arkin doesn’t possess the knowledge to succeed yet and Garrett isn’t about to put Arkin in a position to fail.
Here’s what Garrett said about Arkin in a recent interview. I’m going to paraphrase; Arkin gets after it. He doesn’t hesitate off the line like most rookies. Now, he doesn’t always block the right guy because he doesn’t understand systems and protections yet but he’s going to block someone and move him. Therein lies the reason why Arkin isn’t ready to start… yet. He’s got to get into his playbook and take all the snaps he can at camp and in preseason games. Because Arkin’s smart, has good technique and shows the mental attitude of a brawler, I’d bet the house he’s our starting RG by season’s end. Even though he hasn’t had benefit of NFL weight and conditioning and might not be as strong as he will be in the near future, his apparent will to be successful and his aggressiveness just might be enough to overcome his weaknesses. He’s definitely a RKG.
But as much potential as Arkin appears to have, Holland is still our starter. Why? He’s slow, fat and appears apathetic and lazy because (IMO) he showed up to camp overweight and out of shape. Holland has a history of injury and he’s nicked up now. It’s probable that he’ll be injured at some point during the season because he hasn’t prepared his body enough not to get injured. From all appearances, Holland is not the RKG the others on the OL appear to be. So, to answer the question why he’s still starting; he’s a veteran with 50 starts, he knows the system and protections, he gets push when run blocking, is serviceable when pass blocking and he understand the protections. Most importantly, he’s not a progress-stopper. Garrett’s getting the most out of Holland as he can but I’m sure he’s looking to the future.
Now, Garrett being the leader he seems to be, is not willing to nick the confidence of a young player with Arkin’s potential so he’s biding his time and being patient. He has that option at RG because he has a stop-gap in Holland while his position coach prepares Arkin to step in.
What can I say about Smith? He’s got the perfect build for an NFL tackle. He’s only 20 years old so he’ll naturally get stronger and heavier than he is. What he lacks in technique, he is able to make up for with God-given physical ability AND he’s made a habit of working each day after practice on improving his technique. He’s going to be good for a long time unless he is unfortunate enough to sustain a career ending injury. What about his psyche? Is his confidence going to dwindle because he’s getting beat by number 94 on a consistent basis? Remember, he’s only a 20 year old kid.
Don’t worry. Garrett understands motivation. Here’s a couple quotes of Garrett that explain how he encourages Smith while at the same time providing the constructive criticism that will allow the young man to achieve his full potential.
"If a guy is trying to block a guy who’s a seven-time All Pro, and he makes a good pass set and the guy runs over him, you say, ‘Get back in the huddle. Let’s try again.’ The player isn’t necessarily great on that one from a performance standpoint, but if he’s trying to do it the right way, we believe, over time, he’s going to get better and play to hit at the top of his window, the top of his potential, and give himself a chance to be a football player here and hopefully give us a chance to be a good team".
Also, "With him (Smith) what has been impressive to me has been not only the physical ability and the fight and the ability to compete, but the ability to come back after a guy beats you. Number 94 beats a lot of guys, 93 beats a lot of guys, and how do you respond to that? I think he’s doing a nice job of standing there and competing and coming back on the next play".
Given another three weeks of Camp and four preseason games, I’m pretty sure Garrett will have young Mr. Smith prepared to be an affective right tackle who won’t crumble when he gets beat by any of the talented pass rushers he’ll face this year. Make no mistake; Smith will get beat at some point. However, practicing every day against the best defensive player (IMO) in the NFL is going to prepare him and minimize his failures.
My prediction for our OL is that at some point this year, we’ll have two rookies manning our right side. Why aren’t I worried about this probability? Because once Holland is replaced, every starter will be the right kind of guy and they’ll have been prepared by Coach Garrett who has shown during this camp that he’s the right kind of guy too.