Q: Why would the Cowboys not draft a LT prospect to rotate with Flozell Adams a few plays per game—and do the same with other OL personnel (Colombo/Free)?
John Coleman, Bassett, VA
A: Line substitutions have traditionally been limited to the defensive side of the ball, but we kind of like your thinking here. Football has evolved into a sport of personnel packages. The Cowboys bring in different packages of skill positions players on offense based on down and distance. They do the same with the entire defense.
So why does the offensive line—on basically every NFL team—remain stagnant? Our best guess is that you always want your best players protecting your quarterback. It could be risky, for example, substituting a rookie for Flozell Adams in a 3rd-and-long situation.
Still, there do seem to be situations when the idea makes a lot of sense. The Cowboys loved what they saw in Doug Free last season, so why not rotate him with Marc Colombo at right tackle? We graded Free as superior to Colombo in pass protection, so perhaps the Cowboys should consider substituting Free in during passing situations—just as they do with Tashard Choice.
These “linemen packages” do not necessarily have to tip the defense as to a certain play. The substitution of Choice on third down, for example, does not guarantee a pass. Further, during situations such as 3rd-and-long—when the defense all but knows a pass is going to be dialed up—why not have your best pass protectors in the game?
The problem with substituting a rookie for Adams is that the veteran left tackle’s weakness is obviously pass protecting. Trusting a rookie on 2nd-and-5 is a bit different than 3rd-and-10 on Romo’s blind side against the opponent’s best pass rusher. However, you could make the argument that he would still be better than Adams in pass protection at this point.
Q: When will the NFL announce the compensatory draft picks for this year? Do you think Dallas will receive anything better than a single pick at the end of the sixth round? Thanks!
Edward Toerner, Lafayette, LA
A: Good question, Edward. Compensatory picks will be awarded at the annual NFL meeting, this year being held from March 21-24.
Unfortunately, Dallas does not stand to receive anything too worthwhile again this season in terms of compensatory selections. These picks are based not only on free agents a team loses, but also those a team signs.
So while the squad could have benefited greatly from Chris Canty signing with the Giants—or even a little from Kevin Burnett signing with the Chargers—these losses are negated because Dallas picked up players such as Keith Brooking, Gerald Sensabaugh, and Igor Olshansky.
Now a team can still be awarded selections for losing better free agents—i.e. ones who sign for more money—so the Cowboys should be in line to receive a selection by that route. The problem is that, without losing more free agents than they signed, the Cowboys cannot attain any higher than a seventh-round selection for any players lost.
Further, salary is not the sole determiner of a player’s value—although it is the primary factor. Playing time also counts some. Remember, though, that Canty got injured and missed basically the entire season.
Altogether, don’t bank on the Cowboys receiving anything special here in the coming week.