Gone are the days when multiple pro bowlers stretched the length of the Dallas Cowboys offensive line. These days, the team would be lucky to have the same five players for more than one season. If the Cowboys Tony Romo is concerned, he isn't showing it.
It's no coincidence the majority of the NFL's all time rushing record was amassed during the time when the Cowboys fielded one of the most feared offensive lines in history. Now, they can't even find a center that can stay healthy for any length of time.
The Cowboys will visit Oakland on Monday to officially start their preseason against the Raiders. Most realize that preseason isn't necessarily about winning, as much as it is about developing young players, and knocking the rust of the veterans. Tony Romo will likely play no more than a series or twoÂ—anymore than that, and the Cowboys might be looking for a capable back up for Kyle Orton.
David Arkin will fill in for Phil Costa, who's sitting out Monday's game with a back strain. Costa has filled in for an injured Bill Nagy, who's out with a high ankle sprain. How long Costa will be out isn't known; what is known is that Arkin has never played the center . On Arkin's left side will be veteran Derrick Dockery, while on his right side could be Mackenzy Bernadeau. Bernadeau, who's seen very little contact since camp began due to offseason hip and knee surgeries, wouldn't inspire much confidence in most quarterbacks.
If Romo's concerned, he isn't showing it, saying, "I think obviously we'd like things to be a little different, but we've got to roll. Guys are working hard and they're going to get an opportunity," Romo said. "We gotta get some reps with a lot of guys, the snaps things like that will be good for guys to get that time, so we'll see what happens."
The offensive line during Romo's tenure has been, frankly, offensive. This can be seen very clearly in the rushing game which could only manage five touchdowns in 2011. Not since 2006 when the Cowboys scored 21 rushing touchdownsÂ—14 by Marion Barber aloneÂ—have they been able to rack up more than 14 in a single season. It doesn't take a slide rule to figure out scoring less than 15 touchdowns a season will not produce many playoff appearances, to say nothing of winning a championship. Romo knows this, but what else can he do? A leader doesn't dwell on things he can't control, but of those he can.
The irony of the situation is that Tryon Smith, in only his second year, is perhaps the best player on the line. He will be playing his natural position of left tackle this season, affording Romo some protection from his blind side, while Doug Free, who struggled last year at left tackle, will move back to the right side.
Certainly, new offensive line coach Bill Callahan knew what he was walking into. If anyone can make the most out of a sorry situation, it's Callahan. Garrett sees some growing pains, "There's no question that's a negative factor for those guys... Because Bill has really emphasized how he wants to do things technically and there are some changes in what we're doing with our protections and our run game, so some of that stuff, they're not familiar with, but I think more than anything else, it's snaps in NFL games that's a real advantage for those guys."
The Cowboys have made some strides up to this point, especially on defense. Upgrading the secondary will make life for DeMarcus Ware much easier. Sean Lee has already shown signs of leadership; expect him to be in the running for a spot in the pro bowl. Naturally, the expectations for the defense have risen. They can't afford to leave points on the field this year, expecting Tony Romo and the offense to pick up the slack.