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Fixing The Cowboys Offensive Line In Three Easy Steps

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Jerry Jones, Jason Garrett and Tom Ciskowski face a daunting task next year: their offensive line is broken and it needs a-fixin’. With 4.1 yards per carry, the Cowboys’ running game is ranked 16th in the league this year, the lowest rank since 2005, when the Cowboys ranked 25th in YPC.

And that year, 2005, carries a special significance to 2010 and the current Cowboys O-line predicament: A year later, in 2006, the Cowboys had jumped to 14th in the league -- with a completely reworked O-line that returned only one starter from the year before. Here’s a look at the starters in 2005 and 2006:

2005 2006
Player Games started Age Player Games started Age
LT Torrin Tucker 10 26 LT Flozell Adams 16 31
LG Larry Allen 16 34 G Kyle Kosier 16 28
C Al Johnson 16 26 C Andre Gurode 16 28
RG Marco Rivera 14 33 G Marco Rivera
16 34
RT Rob Petitti 16 23 OT Marc Columbo 16 28

Granted, Flozell would have been the starter in 2005 if he hadn’t been injured after six games and Gurode had started at right guard the year before, but that is still a significant revamping of the O-line in one year. Can the Cowboys do it again this year, and what do you think are the least amount of moves it will take for the Cowboys to fix their O-line?

I propose that the O-line can be fixed in three easy-to-follow steps. How many will you need?

1. TackleDoug Free is here to stay at left tackle, the only obstacle here is that Free will be a free agent in 2011, and will want left tackle money for an extension. I’ll let Jerry worry about this one, I’ll trust him to get this done.

At right tackle, Marc Colombo should get a hero’s farewell for what he’s done for the Cowboys, but he will not be a Cowboy next year. Jerry & Co. will have to find a replacement, probably on the second day of the draft. Between Tyron Smith, Lee Ziemba, Marcus Cannon, DeMarcus Love and perhaps even a Nate Solder, there should be top quality tackles available at the top of the second round.

2. Center – Andre Gurode still has a year or two left in the tank, and while his habit of snapping the ball whenever he pleases is annoying, he is a solid center - at least compared to his peers across the NFC. No change here, finding a replacement will be a task for 2012.

3. Guard – Kyle Kosier has been serviceable this year and I would defer replacing him until I’ve fixed more critical holes all over the defense. Kosier stays if he agrees to a one- or two year contract, but will have to face some competition from at least Montrae Holland and Travis Bright.

Leonard Davis has been a complete disappointment, rivaled only by Marc Colombo’s decline. A solid free agent acquisition would do wonders here, and I’m not necessarily talking Logan Mankins or Carl Nicks here, although I wouldn’t mind either of them. Daryn Colledge from the Packers, Harvey Dahl from the Falcons or Chris Chester from the Ravens, among others, would all be very welcome too.

So there you go: draft a right tackle high and get a guard in free agency. This is what the line could look like:

2010 2011
Player Games started Age Player Games started Age
LT Doug Free 15 26 LT Doug Free - - 27
G Kyle Kosier 12 32 G Kyle Kosier - - 33
C Andre Gurode 15 32 C Andre Gurode - - 33
G Leonard Davis 15 32 G Free Agent - - 27-29
OT Marc Columbo 14 32 OT Rookie - - 22

But I did say three easy steps, and here’s the third:

Fullback/Tight End. Fullbacks are not easy to come by these days, and that’s why the Cowboys have been looking at blocking tight ends to fill the void. But why a fullback? The Cowboys have been in love with fullbacks since Daryl Johnston was a Cowboy in the 90s. A reliable lead blocker with some pass-catching ability will make the offensive line that much more effective.

With John Phillips hopefully returning next year, Chris Gronkowski with a year of NFL experience under his belt and FB/DE Alex Daniels on the practice squad, the Cowboys may already be heavier than most other NFL teams at that hybrid fullback/H-back/blocking TE position. But that only shows how important that position is in the Cowboys’ scheme. The 2011 draft looks to be a bumper year for fullbacks, and with Owen Marecic or Stanley Havili potentially to be had in the later rounds, this would be an ideal year to find a long term fix for a key but underrated position in the backfield.

Three easy steps: draft a right tackle high, get a guard in free agency and use a lower pick for a premium quality fullback. Five draft picks and a lot of free agency money left to shore up that decrepit defense.

How’s that sound, and how many steps would you need?