Later today the Washington Redskins go into Cowboys Stadium to renew their intense famous rivalry with the Dallas Cowboys. A win would put them both level at 5-6 going into the home stretch, and both in touching distance of the 6-4 New York Giants who play Green Bay on Sunday night.
Both the teams are coming off wins this past week, although it’s Washington who will be more happy with their rout of the Philadelphia Eagles, 31-6, than the Cowboys who needed overtime to get past the Cleveland Browns, in a come from behind 23-20 victory.
Once again, Dallas have had to rely heavily on the ability of star quarterback Tony Romo to keep plays alive and keep the offense on the field. This has been largely down to the fact that he has no running game to assist him driving the team forward. This may seem a bit harsh on Felix Jones, who has re-emerged as the number one running back over the past month as first choice DeMarco Murray still nurses an injured foot.
The real root of the problem however has been the poor efforts of the offensive line. Its lack of protection in passing plays has caused Romo, to scramble around and buy time more than ever before. Of course there is an argument that this is where the QB is at his best, moving around and finding a player open downfield. If you ask him though I’m sure he would tell you that he’ d rather not be as mobile unless it was a called play.
So who are the men entrusted in keeping Romo upright, so that the Cowboys fans don’t choke on their turkey dinner later?
If second year player, Tyron Smith doesn’t recover from his high ankle sprain his position at left tackle is likely to be taken again by Jermey Parnell. A bit of a journeyman even though he’s only been in the league since 2006, he was signed from the New Orleans Saints practice squad on October 16th.
Left guard will be filled by Nate Livings, signed by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2006, he was picked up this past off season by Dallas.
At centre the Cowboys have had to dig deep after injuries to Phil Costa and Ryan Cook. Mackenzy Barnadeau now fills the important role. Converted recently from his guard position, he too was an off season pick up, this time from the Carolina Panthers, with who he played since 2008.
Nine year veteran Derrick Dockery will play at right guard, again not his natural position which is the left, but has been asked to fill the gap because of Barnadeaus move to centre.
Lastly the much maligned Doug Free has the right tackle position. Free has taken a lot of flak this season and has often been made the scapegoat for the whole lines play, This may be due to the fact that hes only in the second year of a four year $32m contract. He was bought in 5 years ago as a replacement for the released Flozell Adams.
All have seriously underperformed throughout the whole season so far, and need to pick themselves up quickly. Last Sunday against the Browns they only created space for 63 yards in rushing , and allowed Romo to be sacked a career high 7 times.
Long gone are the days of Mark Stepnoski, Nate Newton, Erlk Williams and Larry Allen. Dallas fans often look to the past and compare the current crop of players. This of course is only natural as these players helped form the dynasty of the nineties.
They have to realise that this line has been forced together maybe out of neglect.
By this i mean that where Owner/GM Jerry Jones, likes to draft and trade in high profile names to help his fading star regain the polish it once had, he tends to overlook the areas that really need help, and more often than not its the guys in the trenches that are more important than your high priced wide receiver, or cornerback.
Amazingly, Jones this week, even went as far as saying he was proud of the way the line was coming along. Either he was kidding himself, or it was a sly way of giving them a confidence boost.
Every player has his part to play. The offensive line of the Cowboys just isn’t playing as the unit it needs to be. Especially at this time of the year when everything is on the line.
So as you’re tucking into another helping of your Thanksgiving feast, spare a thought for Tony Romo,