Mac Engel reports that Dallas Cowboys owner/GM Jerry Jones is thrilled about the state of his team’s offensive line.
Czech author Milan Kundera didn’t specifically mention Jerry Jones by name when he once said optimism is the opium of the people. But he could have.
The Cowboys owner/general manager can’t help but feel encouraged when he looks at an offensive line that once was an albatross for his team and a noose on his offense. “I am so relieved that we are where we are with our offensive line,” Jones said. An offensive line that once was feared to be a weakness now is considered a strength by the Cowboys and a place where they can develop players without fearing the need to play unproven talent. “When we were through and looking ahead after our last ballgame,” Jones said, “I really thought we had a major challenge here, no matter how much we wanted it, [and] we would come up short.”
In Jones’ mind, he didn’t. It’s the reason why as Jones prepares to meet with veteran guard Marco Rivera, which he said he will this week, he doesn’t lose sleep over the possibility of seeing Rivera retire. Either that or Rivera will be released. The 35-year-old is coming off back surgery for the second consecutive off-season, and the Cowboys are prepared to move on without him.
When the Cowboys’ 2006 season ended, losing Rivera was just one possibility. They could have lost three-fifths of an offensive line that didn’t lose a game to injury last season, as well as their backup center.
They could have lost center Andre Gurode, a potential free agent who was coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance. They could have lost right tackle Marc Colombo to free agency. They faced scenarios that involved starting 2006 seventh-round draft pick Pat McQuistan at tackle, as well as Cory Procter, a guard who was cut by the Lions before the start of last season. But the Cowboys kept Gurode. They kept Colombo. They signed Cardinals free-agent lineman Leonard Davis, who is expected to take Rivera’s spot at right guard. The only man they lost was backup center Al Johnson in free agency.
Their draft included a pair of tackles — a third-rounder in James Marten and a fourth-rounder in Doug Free. The best news? Neither has to play anytime soon. “You’ve got to put some time into offensive linemen,” Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said. “If you don’t start now and wait ’til next year, we’re a year behind.”
The theory is that one of these current Cowboys will be ready to replace left tackle Flozell Adams, who will turn 32 this month and enters the final season of his contract.
The Cowboys are tired of drafting offensive linemen and seeing them turn into busts such as Stephen Peterman or Jacob Rogers. They are sick of paying for their draft-day mistakes with high-priced free agents.
“What we’ve attempted to do in this draft is put ourselves in a position of developing the offensive line two or three years from now,” Jones said. “I think the commitment we made [in the draft] is smart business, and it puts us in better shape to manage the offensive line in a better way than we have the last several years.”
It would sure be nice if the youngsters turn out to be starting caliber linemen. It’s been awhile since the Cowboys had any success in drafting on the line.
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