When the Dallas Cowboys drafted USC offensive tackle Tyron Smith with the ninth overall pick, they envisioned him becoming their franchise left tackle. The Cowboys wanted Smith to play the right tackle position during his rookie season last year because that was the position he played while at USC. Starting him out at right tackle allowed a smoother transition to the NFL, but it also delayed Smith from learning the left tackle position.
Moving Smith over to the blindside was something the Cowboys have wanted to do since day one, but they decided to bring Smith along slowly before playing him at the tougher position. Over the offseason, the Cowboys decided that 2012 would be the right time to make the move.
So far the move hasn't exactly worked out. The Cowboys knew there would be some growing pains for Smith, but he has the size (6'5", 311) and athletic ability to overcome the adversity he will face. Tyron Smith has a rock-solid build, but he is also a great athlete. When you combine that with his work ethic, you have the makings of a franchise left tackle.
Smith is leading the NFL with five false start penalties, but Doug Free is second in the NFL with four false start penalties. Even though Smith is making mistakes, I really don't think he has played that poorly. Yes, he had a real tough time with Jason Pierre-Paul in the Giants game, but he did hang tough in that game and is flashing his raw talent. Don't get me wrong, he still has a lot of work to do, but I am not worried about him long-term.
Timing is a huge part of any offensive line, and Smith insists that they are working on getting the timing down.
"We’re figuring it out," Smith said. "We’re getting the timing right and getting on the same page as everybody else. It’s little timing issues and getting (center Ryan Cook) on the same speed as we’re going."
The offensive tackle that we need to worry about is Doug Free. Free looked like a rising star when he filled in for Marc Columbo in 2009. The Cowboys moved him over to left tackle in 2010, and Free continued to look like a young offensive lineman with a lot of promise. But something wasn't right with Free in 2011, he just did not play the quality football that we have become accustomed to seeing from him.
I wouldn't argue with someone if they said that Free has been terrible this season. Free has become a major problem on the offensive line, and he isn't backing down from his poor play.
"It needs improvement, definitely," Free said Wednesday. "I haven't pass protected well enough, (we) haven't run the ball well enough and (I) definitely contributed to (that with) what I've done. I don't think I've done a good enough job and we got to get it fixed, and I have to fix it and I have to take the good coaching and keep working the techniques that I have been taught and really focus on it."
At some point, the entire offensive line needs to get it together and start playing a whole lot better. If they don't, then I don't know how Tony Romo is going to make it through the season as the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. Romo has the ability to extend plays due to his mobility, but there is only so much he can do. Romo can't play perfect football every week, he can't be Superman and play out of his mind when the line gives him no time to throw the football.
Romo recently talked about the hits he is taking, but he didn't criticize or fault the offensive line. In my opinion, Tony is the ultimate team player. He never calls any of his teammates out in the media, it just isn't his style, and you have to respect the man for that.
"You just play the position," Romo said. "It’s part of playing quarterback in the National Football League. Sometimes people are going to hit you. They’re good players on that side. Guys up front are battling. It’s always going to be tough, because you’re always going against a new defensive line, a new scheme, so that part of it makes it a great challenge for our guys. So that’s what makes it fun."
Offensive line coach Bill Callahan isn't going to "sugarcoat" anything. As a fan, I really like that Callahan isn't denying the fact that his offensive line has played poorly. He is willing to admit that his guys aren't playing to the level they should be. It's up to Callahan and the Cowboys' offensive line to figure it out. Whether it's a technical or talent issue, they need to improve in order to win some football games.
The Chicago Bears are coming to town leading the NFL with 14 sacks. This would be the perfect game to start seeing some unity develop on the offensive line. I really believe this offense could enter the elite category if the offensive line steps their game up. So BTB, the offensive line is preventing the Cowboys from having an elite offense, but can they improve? Have at it in the comment section and discuss the offense and offensive line play.