Tyron Smith, Doug Free, and Mackenzy Bernadeau all had issues on Saturday night as the Dallas Cowboys faced the Miami Dolphins in the third preseason game of 2014. Widely regarded as the dress rehearsal for opening night, the third preseason game traditionally gives fans and coaches their last look at the starting unit since the final preseason game is generally a last chance for down roster players to secure a spot on the final 53-man roster. For the Cowboys offensive line, their last preseason appearance was anything but satisfying.
In the opening half of the contest, Dallas QB Tony Romo was sacked three times and was hit on four occasions, not something that you would want to happen even if the starting QB was not coming off of his second back surgery in a little over a year. Miami DE Cameron Wake beat RT Doug Free to sack Romo on two occasions, including one where the veteran tackle was flagged for holding the Dolphins pass rusher. Even with the hold, Free could not slow his man down. Bernadeau also had issues slowing down the pass rush as he also got beat up the middle. Bernie too was flagged on the play.
Pass protection was not the only area where the revamped Dallas line saw issues. Pro Bowl LT Tyron Smith also drew the ire of the men in stripes when he was flagged for holding during a critical first down run. The Cowboys drive soon bogged down. For the first time this preseason they had trouble opening up running room for the backfield. DeMarco Murray and Lance Dunbar, the top two Dallas running backs, combined for a total of 35 yards on 10 carries.
While there is no real cause for alarm, a dismal outing is certainly not a positive sign. With Romo coming off of his surgeries and both Murray and Dunbar having suffered injuries last season, nobody associated with the Cowboys wants to see any struggles from the big men up front. Still the first team made it into the locker room with no real damage being done. Speaking at half time, Jason Garrett had this to say about the hits his quarterback was taking:
"He got knocked around a little bit, and that could be good and bad. You want the protection to be clean, but at the same time for him, in his preparation for San Francisco, it's good to have him feel the physical part of the game." - Jason Garrett