Coty Saxman opined earlier that the Cowboys' defensive line will be the position group that will have the most impact on where this team stands come season's end. O.C.C. followed that up with his thoughts that the Secondary Will Be King. Now I tell you what is really the key to a successful season.
Football is the ultimate team sport. Each player is responsible for interacting, in rhythm, with the parts that surround him. In no other major sport is the impetus on team play more important than in football. Yet, still, all position groups are not created equal.
There is no doubt in my mind that the offensive line is the most important unit in football. I've evolved to this stance over the last year or so, after watching several things play out. First and most importantly though, the prevailing point in defense of the offensive line's status is this... no other group is paramount to the physical safety of other people. The Cowboys can do nothing, absolutely positively nothing, if Tony Romo isn't upright. In case you haven't noticed, he's getting whiplashed. Not just from the hits he's taking, but because his head's on a constant swivel not knowing which lineman is going to spring a leak next.
The argument goes, take defensive line early in the draft because you aren't going to be able to get an impact player there later in the draft; you can get offensive linemen that can play later. Not all of the safeties can start Day One. Both are true. However, you can't be a successful team if your offensive line is solely built on guys taken in the middle or later rounds. You can have a good O-line with a handful of these guys, every good offensive line has a couple players that were plucked at later points in the draft.
The 49ers started three first rounders, a 5th rounder and a UDFA on their line last year. The Ravens started two first rounders, a second, a third and a sixth. Seahawks? A first, second, two thirds and a fifth. New England? Two firsts, a second and two UDFAs.
Now look at the atrocity that we are trotting out.
One first rounder, one fourth rounder who's paid like a first and plays like a sixth, one seventh rounder and two UDFA's. Are you mad? You want to say, well let's throw a third-rounder or a fourth-rounder at it and hope it helps? Have you been looking at the success rate of those middle and late-round picks? It's possible, but it sure isn't a smart gamble.
The Packers are the only team that gets away with a trash line: two fourth rounders and three UDFAs. That has a little to do with the best quarterback in the game, Aaron Rodgers. I love Romo, but he ain't Rodgers.
By the way, Dallas will be starting two first rounders (including a Hall of Famer) a third rounder and a multiple pro bowl seventh rounder on the defensive line this season. I'm not saying, I'm just saying. Who am I kidding, I am saying.
If the guard is there, it can all be fixed. Take Jonathan Cooper if he's there at 18. Take another line player in the next three rounds. Fix this thing once and for all.
Oh no! We can't take a first round guard! Really? Sit down. Logan Mankins, Davin Joseph, Ben Grubbs, Brandon Albert, Mike Iupati, Kevin Zeitler. The only first round guard to fail since 2005 is Danny Watkins and he was injured and played for Philly. It's not a bad investment in any way, shape or form.
We've seen teams advance to and win a Super Bowl with a great offense, bad defense philosophy. Have we seen any do such with a backup quarterback? Because that's what we risk if we don't get Tony Romo some top quality protection.
Now, one could argue that I'm suffering from the mistake of recency, because you can look at the draft pedigree of several recent Super Bowl champions and see the Cowboys aren't much worse off. The 04 Pats, 06 Colts, 07 Giants, 08 Steelers and 09 Saints all had low pedigree lines. The difference is, that the low-pedigree guys they trotted out were actually good players, draft day steals for the most part. Can you trust this team to find mid and late round gems along the line? I'll laugh you out.
The fact that Dallas isn't good at evaluating linemen makes me want to say, ok, let's go with the linemen that EVERYONE feels is a great prospect, as opposed to the one that 1/4th of the teams feel could do something and 3/4ths of the teams don't like as much. Stop trying to beat the system because you aren't good at playing that game.
If the Cowboys fail to augment this offensive line, we are destined to fail in 2013. Heck, it might not even save the year, but it will save the future. I can see arguments for a defensive line player, because of how much trouble we could be in next season and beyond because of the age, but you can miss me with saying that we can afford to look at any other position on Thursday should there be options for us.