The Cowboys' line is a massive wall of human flesh–one of the largest in the league. The group is composed of five veterans who have great experience playing with one another.
Without looking at any numbers, we know that the ‘Boys line provided some of the biggest running lanes in the NFL. Their size and power made it rather easy, relatively speaking, to drive opponents off the ball.
From time to time, however, the group struggled in pass protection. You can’t have it all, and overall they are an above-average line. Still, providing better pass protection for Romo is essential to the Cowboys’ success. In Minnesota during the playoffs, you saw how poor pass protection can affect an entire offense’s rhythm and productivity.
There are some misconceptions about which linemen are the Cowboys’ most dominant. I believe the film doesn’t lie, and the numbers that are garnered from the tape are proof of that. Take a look at the numbers I obtained from my film study listed on the chart below.
Snap count numbers are only those plays in which the players were in pass protection. Also, sack numbers do not add up to total sacks yielded because some were given up by tight ends, backs, or unblocked. Finally, penalty counts are representative of all plays, not just passes.
And now for the grades.
Pass Protection Grades
LT Flozell Adams: D+
Adams struggled mightily in pass protection all season, giving up nine sacks and, perhaps more importantly, a devastating 42 quarterback pressures. It is certainly difficult to block a team’s best pass-rusher, as Flozell had to do more than anyone on the team. Still, I would expect his numbers to be better than this.
Further (and I don’t want to beat a dead horse so I won’t go into great detail), we all know Adams’ struggles with penalties. He had 13 this year, tied for fifth most in the NFL.
LG Kyle Kosier: B+
Kosier is sorely under-appreciated, often labeled by the media as the “weak link” of the Cowboys’ line. He gave up just one sack all season though, and had good numbers in both quarterback hits and pressures allowed. He obviously didn’t face the speed rushers that Adams, Colombo, and Free faced, but his ability to handle defensive tackles much larger than him is impressive.
C Andre Gurode: A
Gurode had the best season of any Dallas’ linemen. He gave up just three sacks, but hits and pressures are more representative of how well a player performed. He allowed his man to pressure Romo just 2.27 percent of all pass plays, by far the best on the team, and did it while performing a task no other lineman was asked to do: snap the ball.
RG Leonard Davis: A-
It was difficult to determine whether to give Kosier or Davis a higher grade. I ended up giving Davis the slightly higher grade because, while he yielded three more sacks than Kosier, he gave up a lower percentage of quarterback hits and pressures, and also did a fantastic job of not racking up penalties: he allowed just four all season.
RT Marc Colombo: C
Colombo’s numbers actually came out worse than anticipated. His sack numbers were respectable, but he allowed the highest percentage of QB hits on the team, and his pressures and penalties were nearly just as bad. These numbers also don’t include the Cowboys’ playoff game in Minnesota, where Colombo allowed three sacks and got manhandled all game (albeit probably due to injury).
RT Doug Free: B-
I was interested in discovering how well Free actually performed on the season and how his statistics compared to Colombo’s. As I presumed, his numbers were about average. He didn’t have the worst or best percentages in any category, but overall performed better than Colombo. His hits, pressures, and penalty percentages were all lower than those of the man he replaced (particularly the percentage of hits yielded, which was about 2.5 times as low).
So there you have it. In order of excellence, I rate the 2009 performance of the Cowboys’ linemen, in terms of pass protection, as follows:
1. Andre Gurode: A
2. Leonard Davis: A-
3. Kyle Kosier: B+
4. Doug Free: B-
5. Marc Colombo: C
6. Flozell Adams: D+
This is further evidence that Dallas should move up in the first round to select an offensive tackle for the future. The numbers don’t lie.
In my next “Grading the ‘Boys” segment, I will grade the line’s run-blocking abilities.