As O.C.C. reported here, Hall of Fame lineman Bruce Matthews has re-signed with the Houston Texans and won't be making the move up I-45 to Dallas to be the assistant offensive line coach. This was on the heels of the only other known candidate bowing out as well, Dave brought you the news that Dan Campbell was staying in Miami.
If Jason Garrett is intent on bringing someone in to help with the line because Hudson Houck will garner running game coordinator duties - he's on, at the very least, Plan C. This topic begs an interesting question that has simmered in most of our heads. Who's fault is the offensive line play, and how good of a coach has Hudson Houck been this time in Dallas? As we wait for O.C.C.'s positional breakdown of the offensive line like school kids wait for the recess bell, I'll save the high level stat talk for one more qualified than I. Let's just cover what we saw with the eye test.
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- To a certain extent, the entire line played worse than it did in 2009. The guard play took a noticeable decline with both Kyle Kosier and Bigg Davis regressing from their 2009 versions. The play of center Andre Gurode was about the same blocking wise, and I don't recall too many of the errant snaps that plagued him a few years back. Left tackle was a marked improvement with Doug Free moving in for Flozell Adams, but right tackle play fell off a cliff. Marc Colombo is ranked 76th out of 78 tackles that qualified for evaluation by Profootballfocus.com. Without having Doug Free to call their own, the group of backups were nondescript in general.
- We talked about it in the comment section of several threads. We wondered if releasing Flozell Adams instead of moving him to the right side was a mistake made by the accountant Jerry Jones. Well, according to pff.com it wasn't that big of a mistake. Flozell graded out worse at right tackle in Pittsburgh (-19.7) than he did at left tackle in Dallas last season(-2.7). Strangely, PFF.com says that the entire Steelers offensive line was below average save for rookie Maurkice Pouncey. Let's hope Clay Matthews and BJ Raji exploit this come February 6th.
- The eye test tells us that the Cowboys line must have run hot and cold, as their statistics say they are an above average group. Every lineman that played save for the right tackles (Marc Colombo and Alex Barron) received positive year end grades. They say that one weak link breaks the chain, and these grades might be more evidence that the line can be competitive if we solve the right tackle issue. Now depth in case of injuries? That is something that has to be addressed, as even though they graded out well, the line is getting up there in age. Gurode, Davis and Colombo are all 32 while Kosier is turning 33. Doug Free, Phil Costa and Sam Young are keepers, but more youth is definitely needed.
- It is possible, and maybe even highly likely, that the no pads no hitting theme of Wade Phillips practice schedule sapped the aggressiveness out of the offensive line, and 2010 isn't a true judge of this units talent. The offensive line play seemed to have improved over the last half of the season.
- Without a doubt, the Cowboys have struggled at the goal line in the three seasons that Houck has been back. They always seemed to get undercut by defensive linemen and linebackers. Is it Houck's scheme? Garrett's playcalling? The players effort?
There's no question Houck has a knowledge base the Cowboys would be wise to utilize. His resume should only be brought into question by those that have achieved greater; and that's a very short list.
The question is: Does he have enough juice in him to relate that knowledge to players on an instructional level day in and day out? It appears that the Cowboys brain trust feels he just needs better clay to mold, as evidenced by Doug Free's escalation. O.C.C. reports here that Jerry Jones is finally eying high round talent in his draft preparations.
So we ask you BTB, is an infusion of young high pedigree talent along the line all that is holding this offense back from elite consistency?