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Cowboys Tackles Make Top 10 and Bottom 10 Lists In Pass Protection Rankings

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I don't think I'm giving away too much right at the start by revealing that Doug Free makes the top ten, while Marc Colombo ranks in the bottom ten in the pass protection rankings for tackles released by Pro Football Focus.

The basic idea behind pass protection is to keep the opposing defenses from making what NFL scouts call splash plays - plays that turn games around. The fewer of these an offensive lineman allows, the better. Splash plays include sacks, QB hits and QB hurries, and PFF combine these in a nifty little formula:

Sacks added to three quarters of Hits and Hurries, divided by the amount of snaps in pass protection multiplied by a 100. That's the Pass Blocking Inefficiency formula, or: (Sacks + (0.75 * Hits) + (0.75 * Hurries)) / Pass Protection Snaps * 100

We've long held that Doug Free was one of the best run-blocking left tackles in the league, but his pass protection numbers come as a slight surprise, as PFF ranks Free as the fifth best tackle in pass protection last year. Completely unsurprising is Marc Colombo's rank in pass protection: Colombo ranks as the sixth worst right tackle in pass blocking efficiency.

But there is one other pass protection ranking from PFF that does come as a surprise, the 2010 team pass protection rankings.

Before we get into the team numbers, you'll need to hold on really tight to your beer - or other beverage of choice - on this lovely Tuesday morning, because they may come as little bit of a surprise.

The Cowboys are ranked the seventh best team in PFF's pass protection rankings. Here's what PFF say about the 2010 Cowboys:

The at times predictable Dallas offense, didn’t shy away from leaving their tight ends into pass block, and with good reason. Marc Colombo desperately needed the help, and both Jason Witten and Martellus Bennett are among the best pass blocking tight ends around. With Jon Kitna helping to turn a whopping 23.86% of pressure into sacks, it was best keeping him free of defenders. At least Tony Romo and his 10.61% returns next year.

Clearly, the extensive use of tight ends and backs in blocking went a long way towards negating Colombo's -34.1 overall grade. And just as clearly, there's something to be said for a nimble and mobile QB as well.

For the sake of argument, let's assume that Tyron Smith is an immediate upgrade over Colombo at right tackle (granted, that's not much of an assumption). Couple that with backs and tight ends who do not need to stay in to pass protect anymore. Add in a healthy Romo, and this offense could go places.

Now if somebody could just fix the defense, please.