Welcome to the offseason Dallas Cowboys. Prior to the season I thought you were an 8-8 team playing a 10-win schedule. Unfortunately, you proved me right.
However, there were many positives to the season. It looks like Dallas’ last two drafts will produce some good players. Dez and Sean Lee have proven to be worth their draft pick, and Sean Lissemore has entrenched himself in the DL rotation and seems to be improving by the game.
The 2011 class has potential as well, Tyron Smith instantly solidified one tackle position for the foreseeable future and DeMarco Murray looks like a steal. The theme for the 2011 draft, however, was improving the offensive line. Smith, David Arkin and Bill Nagy were all drafted and Kevin Kowalski was brought in as an UDFA.
After some positive reviews in training camp there was excitement about the young guys up front. Once the season started, with the exception of Smith, the young linemen struggled. Veterans Montrae Holland, Kyle Kosier and Derrick Dockery were all able to hold off the young guys for playing time.
This has led some to think Tyron Smith is the only keeper offensive lineman from the 2011 draft haul. Many posters have postulated David DeCastro is the best guard prospect to come out in years and should be the Cowboys pick at 14.
This claim about DeCastro got me very excited so I went and looked at film of the guy, I came away thinking one thing – this guy reminds me of David Arkin.
More after the jump….
Let me first start off by saying I know David DeCastro is a better pro prospect coming out of Stanford than Arkin out of Missouri State. But when judging DeCastro against the standard of "best guard prospect in years", I think he comes up wanting.
I looked at several Stanford games and focused in on DeCastro and here is what I took away. DeCastro is an athletic guard who moves well in space. He seems to have those sticky hands (like Tyron Smith) where once he gets his hands on the defender they have trouble disengaging. He was an effective but not overpowering blocker. He would use technique and leverage to turn the defender away from the hole, rather than blow his defender out of the hole. Plays to the whistle and is always looking for someone to block. Smart player, does not make many mistakes. Saw him get pushed back several times in pass blocking and makes me a little worried he could struggle against a strong bull rush early in his career. Still looks a little light in the pants and could stand to use a few years in a strength and conditioning program. More of a technician than mauler type lineman.
So, while I think DeCastro is definately a first round pick and fits the Cowboys new profile for offensive lineman, I did not walk away thinking he was the best guard prospect I have ever seen. Matter of fact, he reminds me a lot of a more polished David Arkin.
How quickly some of forget Arkin's skill set. Here is a breakdown from Bryan Broaddus on Arkin. Also, from ChiaCrack's blog there is this:
Todd McShay said David Arkin was one of his sleeper offensive lineman in the draft. He also said Arkin will be a big time player in the NFL for a long time. Mike Mayock compared Arkin to Jahri Evans, who had to make the same change from tackle to guard in the NFL coming from a small school. I like that Arkin is athletic and can get into space well. As a guard in Garrett’s system you need to be athletic. You also have to love that Arkin is a physical player who has a mean streak. I mean everything you read about this guy seems like a perfect fit for the Cowboys and what Garrett is trying to accomplish.
In the preseason, Arkin was able to come in and compete against NFL caliber players. Through determination, aggressiveness and pure attitude he did not embarrass himself despite being physically over matched in most cases. Keep in mind, due to the lockout, Arkin had a limited amount of exposure to the playbook, training facilities and coaching.
The biggest issue for Arkin coming out of college was the transition from small-school Missouri State to the NFL. Most agreed he needed to add strength before he would be ready to start. My biggest hope is Arkin has been hitting the weight room hard throughout the season and now into the off season and will come to training camp next year stronger and more able to compete physically with NFL defensive lineman.
Many analyst agree, offensive lineman do not really hit their potential until their 5th or 6th year in the league. This is about the time when their experience and physical ability seem to match up. This is not saying an offensive lineman cannot come in and become a starter right away, but their are usually struggles early on their careers, especially consistency (don't be the exception guy, Vegas makes millions of dollars a day on guys who bet on the exception rather than the rule). Even Tyron Smith, who played great and is the exception to the rule, struggled at times this year.
My feeling is, even though DeCastro would be a welcome addition to the offensive line, I do not think he instantly and drastically makes the line better. I think DeCastro will have his share of struggles early on and will take time to reach his potential.
Again, I would be on board with the DeCastro pick, especially if Carl Nicks cannot be lured away from the Saints via free agency, but I think there are other players who may be available who would have as much, if not more of an impact for the Cowboys.
Interior offensive line was a definate weakness in 2011, but the answer may already be on the roster.
Below are a couple of videos and links which should remind you why the Cowboys were high on Arkin.
Here is a link to Arkin's combine workout.
Here is a link to Mike Mayock discussing the pick of Arkin on draft day.
How in the world did DeMarco Murray last until the 71st pick???