A position that has been considered one of the weakest in the league in recent years (notice there are no blue-chip players on this list; when Larry Allen was in his prime in the late '90s, he would score in the mid-4.0s and nobody else would be close to him) shows some encouraging signs for Dallas.
Named to back-to-back Pro Bowls with the Packers before bolting to Big D, where the Cowboys hope he can duplicate a recent streak of more than 60 games without allowing a sack. Terrific leader and locker-room guy. Quick and has seen it all, which should be a benefit to younger, less experienced linemates. Sets up in a blink, anchors and plays with proper pad level. Has the hand speed to joust with top pass-rushing defensive tackles. Some fear he might fall apart -- he played through ligament tears and is coming off back surgery in March.
Who are these people who fear he will fall apart? The janitors at Pro Football Weekly? The bitter Packers fans on staff just itching to say "I told you so" to Jerry -- and us -- for luring Rivera away? Don't get me wrong, the back surgery made me feel queasy when I first heard about it, because those things can wreck a career. Having seen recent photos of Rivera rehabbing, and seeing the stretching and torquing he's doing on his back to strenghen it, I'm far less worried now. But really, if the guy can play through ligament tears and make the Pro Bowl, falling apart is the last thing I worry about. It seems Rivera can play well while falling apart.
One-dimensional Mack truck of an interior lineman in the twilight of his career. Allen has had a Hall of Fame-worthy run, even if he doesn't dominate and appears drained late in games. Can come off the ball and blow up an interior lineman on occasion. Has rare power and a strong, wide base with broad shoulders. Not agile and is a two-step blocker who much recover and must get his hands up and out to neutralize a blocker.
This scouting report is dead on about Allen the past two seasons, especially in '03. He improved last season, but his recovery ability on pass plays left something to be desired. The glowing reports of improved mobility from Parcells better be on the mark or the staff is fooling themselves about moving him to right tackle. If he can play at a 3.2 level as a right tackle, he's top ten at that position as well.
The question marks are present, because of Allen's and Rivera's age and Rivera's surgery. If they maintain their level of play, Dallas has two Pro Bowlers. Julius Jones and Drew Bledsoe can only hope.