Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle roster evaluation.
Starter: Flozell Adams – Flozell Adams has a long history with the Cowboys but is currently an unrestricted free agent. The Cowboys organization has a decision to make in terms of the amount of money and the length of a possible contract for Flozell and they have to balance that against potential offers he could receive from other teams. Adams has been somewhat of an enigma during his career in Dallas. He possesses a ton of talent and has the physical size to engulf pass rushers; playing left tackle generally leaves him up against the opposing defense’s best pass rusher. Throughout his career he’s had games/seasons when he’s been a dominant left tackle, but he’s also had times – granted much less time - when he looks totally outmatched and unmotivated. Coming off of injury in the 2006 season, it looked like he would never again reach the plateau of great play he had shown previously. Then last year, he turned in an excellent season proving once again that when he’s on his game he can play with the best of them.
Protecting Tony Romo’s blindside is about as important a job as there is on the Cowboys team. If Flozell continues to play like he did last year then the re-signing him would be a no-brainer. But Flozell’s history of inconsistency and his advancing age should give the Cowboys some pause at breaking the bank to get him re-signed. They’ve reached a crossroads, do you go with what you know or do you trust your draft picks – and the Cowboys have spent a couple of draft picks at the tackle position – and go younger? I guess it all depends on what Flozell wants to stay in Dallas and he has said recently he would like to end his career here. But other teams who might be a player or two away from contending could see Flozell as the answer to their left tackle problems and throw a huge contract at him. My gut says re-sign him if it is at all reasonable, but if the price is too high or the length of contract too prohibitive, you have to go with your young players. This is one of the trickiest situations the Cowboys will face this offseason and they need to get it right. The Cowboys also will rely on the advice of new o-line coach Hudson Houck who had Flozell as a young player; this could influence the decision to keep him. Oh yeah, I’m not even going to discuss Flozell’s propensity for jumping offsides, it’s just a given you have to live with if he’s on your team.
Starter: Marc Colombo – Colombo was resurrected off the scrap heap by former coach Bill Parcells and has turned in to quite a find for the Cowboys. Right tackle had been a constant problem for the Cowboys but now that Colombo has settled into the position the Cowboys have a player they can depend on. Colombo is scrapper, the kind of guy who will never give up on a play and will fight the opposing player to the end. His play at right tackle along with Flozell’s on the other side gave Tony Romo the confidence to stand in the pocket and know that he would have time to make his reads and work the ball downfield. Colombo has quietly worked up the ranks of right tackles in the league and seems to have left his devastating knee injuries far behind him. He will go into next season in the final year of a two-year contract he signed before last season. If he plays up to the level he did this year then the Cowboys would be foolish not to lock him into a long-term deal. He’s still relatively young and there’s no reason to assume his play will do anything but improve. He’s regained the strength that was sapped by the knee injury and game experience has allowed him to refine his technique. The Cowboys got a steal when they showed the patience to re-build Colombo’s career.
Doug Free – Free was rookie last year who showed a great deal of promise. I watched him in training camp and in the preseason and came away thoroughly impressed. In training camp during one-on-one drills he was able to hold his own with some of our best pass rushers. He has amazing feet and athleticism and used them to his advantage by staying between the pass rusher and the QB. If for some reason the Cowboys don’t re-sign Flozell Adams I think that Free would be the top-choice to take over at left tackle. (Unless the Cowboys do something silly like move Leonard Davis over to left tackle, an impulse I would hope they'd resist). It’s true that having an untested and relatively young player working at that crucial position would make me nervous but from what I’ve seen out of Free so far, I think that he would be capable of holding the fort while he grows as a player from actual game-experience. It would be risky, we haven’t seen him on a regular basis against some of the best in the league and we haven’t seen him hold up over the course of a regular season, but he shows tremendous potential.
Pat McQuistan – McQ is a solid backup but I’m not sure if he’ll ever be the kind of starter that you want playing on a regular basis. I’ve watched his play through a couple of training camps and preseasons so far and can tell he works very hard and is always trying to improve but I’m not convinced he has the ability to be an everyday starter. I’m not betting the farm on that though; he could be thrust into the starting lineup and perform admirably, but I already think that Doug Free is the superior lineman. It’s possible that McQ might be a better guard than he is tackle and his ability to play both those positions makes him a valuable reserve on gameday.
James Marten – Another rookie tackle selected last year, he had a miserable training camp in which he was beaten on a regular basis by the defense. He seemed slow in the feet and guessed too much about where the defender was going and was slow to recover if he guessed wrong. The coaches were constantly on him trying to get him to use proper technique but from the time I saw him it didn’t seem to improve. A year removed from rookie status and under the tutelage of new coach Hudson Houck may do a lot towards improving his play, but until I see evidence of that in the upcoming training camp/preseason I’m not convinced he will contribute much to the Cowboys. I hope time will prove me wrong on this one.