The offensive line is the pillar of successful NFL teams. There has never been a Super Bowl champion with a bad offensive line.
The Dallas Cowboys offensive line is filled with Pro Bowlers. They are one of the most experienced units, and often considered among the best in the NFL.
They are also old.
The current starters are, Marc Colombo (31, eighth season), Leonard Davis (31, ninth season), Andre Gurode (31, eighth season), Kyle Kosier (30, eighth season), and Flozell Adams (34, 12th season). That's an average age of 31.4.
That might not seem that old, but when you consider the Washington Redskins entered the 2008 (I do not have 2009 statistics) season with the oldest offensive line in the NFL, with an average of 32, there is cause for concern.
Although the Redskins "got younger" in this past offseason, they obviously waited too late. If you have recently watched that train wreck in D.C., you know that those little piggies up front couldn't block a high school team.
Like the Redskins, the offensive line's penalties are killing the Cowboys. Before the Atlanta Falcons game, they accounted for 15 of the Cowboys 37 penalties, with perennial All-Pro "Flag-Magnet" Flozell Adams leading with seven.
Cowboys offensive line coach Hudson Houck defended accusations that Adams was trying to hurt people with his two leg-whip penalties this year.
"He is not doing things to hurt people," Houck said. "The reason he got the penalties really was because he was out of position. He tried to get back in position and the foot came up. It wasn't malicious at all. We've got to clean up the penalties."
While I agree Adams wasn't trying to hurt anyone, there is a reason he throws out his leg like that. He got beat. Plain and simple.
When offensive linemen start losing athletic ability as they get older, "getting out of position" happens more often. When they are consistently beaten by the guy they are supposed to block, they do anything they can to stop the guy from getting to their quarterback. A lot of the times, false starts and holding penalties are the end results.
This has cost the Cowboys time and again this season, killing drives before they can get started, and sometimes taking away first downs.
And if they aren't committing the penalties when they get beat, that means the quarterback is about to get smacked.
With those skills, Romo masks a lot of the protection problems the offensive line has against the better pass rushing teams. Did anyone notice how great the offensive line became after Romo replaced Drew Bledsoe? They didn't change anyone on the line, they just changed quarterbacks.
But Romo can't help the penalties. Age and lack of discipline are the culprits there.
What are the repercussions for a false start in practice?
Seriously? There is no wonder they lack discipline. Fortunately, with the right coaching, that can be controlled and minimized.
Unfortunately for the Cowboys, they do not control time. They need to get younger up front, regardless of recent, ridiculous contract agreements, and I'm not sure I have faith in the current backups becoming starters.
If the Cowboys ignore this in the offseason, 2010 might have Cowboys fans edging toward the cliffs like Redskins fans have this season.