Shedding a little sunlight on the doom and gloom surrounding the offensive line

Situations are rarely as dire as they appear or as wonderful as they seem. A convincing win may hinge on several plays that went the right way, showing that the win was not as decisive as originally perceived. A close, embattled victory may look more aesthetically pleasing upon further review: just look at the victory over the Buccaneers (now 6-4) in Arlington in week 3 as an example.

The game played in Cowboys Stadium against the Browns was not an appealing game to witness. There were several factors that contributed to the distasteful play, but injuries played a major role.

The injury that started a series of dominoes falling was the injury to Cook, the backup, backup center. Due to the knee injury suffered by Ryan, Mackenzy Bernadeau was moved from his right guard position to the starting center.

Bernadeau had been making strides over the last few weeks at right guard. Not coincidently, Doug Free appeared to be improving over this same frame of time. Yesterday, however, Free regressed terribly. In hindsight, his poor play should have been expected.

Free looked terrific in 2009. Doug replaced Marc Colombo at right tackle following the significant injury Marc suffered. The right guard at that time was Kyle Kosier, a free agent veteran that was the steadiest performer on the offensive line at that time. With Kosier beside him, Free excelled as the right tackle.

The following season, Doug moved to the left tackle position and Kosier moved to left guard. Free played well for most of the season. In 2011, however, Kosier moved over to help the rookie tackle, Tyron Smith. The left guard was Nagy, then Dockery, and finally Holland. Doug Free played poorly throughout most of 2011.

Because of the potential and performance demonstrated by Tyron Smith in his rookie season, Free was moved back to the right tackle spot. But instead of playing at the level fans witnessed in 2009, Doug has been playing more like the 2011 version.

Mackenzy Bernadeau started as the guard in New York. Bernadeau struggled for the first several weeks at right guard, but has shown evidence of improving over the last few weeks. As the level of guard play has improved, Free's level of play has become closer to that observed in 2009.

Then on Sunday, the Cowboys are forced to move Mackenzy over to center, and the sub-standard Dockery takes over at right guard. Not surprisingly, Free plays poorly again. This should not have been a surprise, but many analysts and fans (me included) downplayed the significance of the shuffle.

It would be surprising if neither Cook nor Kowalski would be manning the center position on Thanksgiving. This would return Bernadeau to the right guard spot, and Free would once again be reunited with his security blanket.

As far as the injury situation with Tyron Smith, it would not surprise me if Tyron starts on Thanksgiving as the left tackle despite the preliminary reports that he suffered a high ankle sprain. He will not be fully recovered in three days, and he will be playing hurt, but several things suggest that he will play.

First of all, the reports coming out of Arlington and Valley Ranch have been contradictory. The actions taken by the team on Sunday suggest that the ankle injury sustained by Smith may not be as severe as perceived.

When a player suffers a high ankle sprain, the training staff immediately places a walking boot on the player, and the player is generally using crutches for several days to reduce the amount of pressure placed upon the ankle. This is done to protect the ankle from further damage and inflammation or swelling.

On Sunday, the training staff taped up Smith's ankle. Tyron was not on crutches or walking in a boot on the sidelines. Rather, Smith was standing independently with his ankle taped for additional support. Rumors surfaced that Tyron could have returned to the game, save the pain he was experiencing. The reaction of the training staff to his injury confirms this report.

It would not be surprising to discover that Tyron will be listed as questionable for the Redskins game and considered a game time decision. Given that prediction, expect Tyron to play on Thanksgiving.

With Tyron at left tackle, Free playing right tackle with Bernadeau to his left, and Livings staying somewhat constant at left guard, the offensive line would not be the liability it was on Sunday. Considering the activation of Kowalski prior to the game versus the Browns, it would not be shocking to see Kevin making his first start against Washington in a few days.

If Murray is able to pass his physical landmarks, DeMarco could start his first game since the game at Baltimore. Considering that Felix Jones aggravated a knee injury in the game versus the Browns, DeMarco's return could be imminent.

With Kowalski starting at center, the rest of the offensive line intact, DeMarco Murray starting, and the wide receivers playing at their highest level, the Cowboys offense may finally exhibit the explosiveness expected prior to the beginning of the season. Romo has been his normal self in November, now boasting a 21-3 record: best all-time.

Will the Cowboys start blowing teams out?

Probably not...but it would be nice to see the offense finally perform with the pieces intended at the start of the season. Beating the Redskins would be nice too.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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