NFL

Teams taking Cowboys O-Line Blueprint

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When someone tries something different and becomes successful, you’ll see others begin to copy the winning formula. It’s just the nature of the copycat world we live in today.

The NFL has always been a copycat league and now teams are looking to emulate their more successful peers.

Jerry Jones and his Dallas Cowboys have created a formula other teams are starting to copy, which would’ve sounded crazy just a couple of years ago. From 2011 to 2013, the Cowboys were the definition of mediocre, finishing each season with a record of 8-8.

However, things dramatically changed in 2014, as the Cowboys won the NFC East with a 12-4 record and winning a playoff game against the Detroit Lions, which was their first playoff victory since 2009. A major part of their success was the dominance of their offensive line.

It all started when the Cowboys drafted left tackle Tyron Smith in 2011. Despite Smith’s presence, Dallas’ offensive line still suffered tremendously. During the 2012 season, Dallas only totaled 1,265 rushing yards, which was a franchise worst.

Immediately after the season, Jones made it seem like it wasn’t a big deal.

“If you’re going to have a guy … that can handle a porous offensive line, it’s Tony [Romo],” Jones said. “Tony has some of the best percentages operating behind pressure situation of anyone in the NFL. If there were a place theoretically that you had to have a weakness with Tony Romo at quarterback, that might be a place to have it. You just can’t have it all.”

Regardless of his comments, Jones elected to take offensive linemen Travis Frederick and Zach Martin in the first round in consecutive drafts.

Now, with the addition of La’el Collins, this front line just got even better.

“This is going to be the greatest offensive line in NFL history. Mark my words,” Collins said.

With Tony Romo at the age of 35, protecting him is a top priority in the ‘Big D’. Protect is exactly what the Cowboys line did.

In 2014, Romo had a MVP type season. He threw for 3,705 yards to go along with 34 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions.

When you look at this year’s draft, you’ll notice a trend of teams with older or injury prone quarterbacks going big early.

Division rivals Washington and New York both went offensive line with their first picks in the hopes to close the gap.

It appears the Redskins are going to roll with Robert Griffin III for at least one more year. Ever since his rookie campaign, RG3 has left little to be desired. First of all, the guy has a hard time staying on the field, even though a lot of it is his own doing because he still refuses to slide when scrambling. Secondly, when he is on the field, he hasn’t proven to be an accurate thrower, and thirdly, there’s guys in that locker room who allegedly don’t like him.

With all of that being said, the selection of guard Brandon Scherff should help protect RG3 moving forward. Scherff is pretty athletic for his size and he has a knack for picking up twists and delayed blitzes.

Just a few picks down from Washington, the Giants took guard Ereck Flowers. The Miami Hurricane product will bring versatility, given he played both tackle positions during his collegiate days. Considering the statue Eli Manning is in the pocket, there’s no doubt he could use some extra beef upfront.

The Cardinals, Saints, Bengals, Browns and Lions all went big in the first round as well.

As the old outage goes, ‘games are won in the trenches’. You’d think teams would’ve known that beforehand, but the way Dallas has stacked their line is causing these teams to follow in their footsteps.


About Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels is an NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has several years of experience covering the NFL and NCAA football. He's the radio color commentator for Lincoln University football. Mark's work has been featured on Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and Yard Barker.