Sunday, July 19, 2009

Training Camp Preview - Part 5 - Offensive Line

This is the biggest area of concern on offense and maybe the entire team going into this season in my mind. While a lot of blame was placed on Romo and the defense, the offensive line may have underachieved more than anyone last season. As with nearly every other position last season, injuries or really one injury may have been the main reason for the struggles of the line. When Kyle Kosier went down with a foot injury early in the season Cory Proctor took over at left guard. His play was terrible and had an impact on the play of the entire line because they were forced to give Proctor extra help. I'm going to look at what I expect at training camp from the offensive line position by position but there really is only one spot yet to be determined, left guard.

Left Tackle - Flozell Adams is the unquestioned starter here. Last season was definitely below average for Flozell, but part of his struggles were injury related and part, I believe, were due to the poor play of the left guard next to him. Flozell is getting up in age but needs to play for a few more years due to his salary and the fact that the Cowboys have essentially no depth behind him. It is hard to judge the offensive line in training camp, but the preseason games should show us if he is ready. I think he'll be better this season, but I think we'll continue to see a false start from him in nearly every game.

Left Guard - This is the one position where there will be a fight in camp. Kyle Kosier and Montrae Holland will be vying for the starting spot. There are several factors at play here including salary and age. I wouldn't be surprised to see Kosier cut or traded if Holland beats him for the job. Supposedly Kosier helps out Flozell during the game by serving as an on-field coach, but Holland sure looked good in his short time on the field last season. I could see either guy winning the job, but I am giving Holland the edge due to injury concerns with Kosier. Whoever wins the job will undoubtedly be an upgrade from the left guard play we saw last season out of Proctor.

Center - Andre Gurode is considered to be one of the best at his position in the NFL. My only concern about him continues to be the shotgun snap. I don't know why he has such a hard time with it, but I really hope he has improved his snaps over the offseason. That is really the only thing I'll be hoping to see in camp out of Gurode. Depth here is somewhat of a concern since Proctor is probably the backup, but I think Proctor's lack of size and strength would be less of a concern at center.

Right Guard - Leonard Davis is an absolute beast when he is playing at the top of his game. The problem is that he is inconsistent with his run blocking. I can't remember his man getting to the quarterback last season, but he didn't move his man back on running plays as much as he should with his size. I'll be watching to see if he is moving his man backward on runs during camp but we won't really be able to judge how he looks until the real games start.

Right Tackle - Marc Columbo is just a solid player. He isn't dominant or flashy, but he usually gets the job done and does it with a nasty attitude. He seems to be one of the emotional leaders on the offense. I'd like to see him settle into the role of being a more vocal leader for the offensive line. He was one of the main reasons that the Cowboys were able to beat Tampa Bay last season without Tony Romo. Depth is a concern here too since there is no one behind Columbo with any significant experience. Robert Brewster was drafted for depth so he'll be someone to watch develop during training camp and preseason.

The offensive line is my may determine more than anyone else how the Cowboys peform in 2009. The Cowboys have huge guys with household names manning several positions but they need to play up to their reputations this year. If they can get a better push on run plays and do a better job protecting Romo we will probably see a much more consistent performance from the entire offense this year. If they play like they did last season then it is going to be difficult for the Cowboys to make much noise in 2009.

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