The Dallas Cowboys have been unable to protect quarterback Tony Romo. They have been unable to open up enough holes for running back DeMarco Murray. Simply out, the Dallas Cowboys have been unable to give the offense a chance to remain upright enough to put up some points on the board.
That is why the Cowboys have put the entire offensive line on notice.
They either need to play better, or the team will go out and find someone who can.
The first game of the season was alright. The Cowboys were able to beat the New York Giants 24-17, and Romo threw for 307 yards while Murray ran for 131 yards. That is the performance that Cowboys expect on a weekly basis.
But as evidenced by how they played against the Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, that was not the case. Although the team split those two games to improve to 2-1, the Cowboys know that the offensive line needs to play much better, as Romo cannot continue to get battered while Murray gets bottled up.
Offensive line coach Bill Callahan is letting them all know as much.
“There is no question [we have to get better],” Callahan said. “I’m not going to sugarcoat this. We did not play well [against Tampa Bay on Sunday] and we are not playing well right now. We’ve got to improve. We’ve got to become a more consistent unit across the board. We are not pleased where we are at. Certainly not our standard.”
Not only are the Cowboys allowing too many sacks and opposing hits to Romo while they fail to block and open up lanes for Murray to run through, but they are also committing far too many penalties. The two tackles – Tyron Smith and Doug Free – were supposed to be the strengths of the line. So far, they have committed nine of the team’s 12 false-start penalties. Smith has five while Free has four, including three in last Sunday’s win against the Buccaneers.
Considering that game was at home, that makes the penalties even worse.
Smith played better on Sunday, and the No. 9 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft is still learning. Free, however, was given a four year contract extension worth $32 million prior to last season. Of the 64 players at his position, he ranked at No. 44 last season.
Free is No. 59 this season through three games. That number simply must improve.
But it isn’t just the tackles. The guards have been no bargain either. Especially Mackenzy Bernadeau, who is in danger of losing his starting job as right guard to Derrick Dockery.
“We want more from him,” Callahan said. “I’ve made this point to him.”
The problem is easy to realize. But the solution is not coming quite as easily for Dallas.
If they can cut down on the penalties, that is a big step in the right direction. But they also must help keep Romo off the ground. He cannot continue to take as many hits, as he has already been a bit injury prone over the past few seasons. The more hits he takes, the better the chance he remains on the sidelines more than on the field. Callahan knows this.
“We have to do a better job keeping Tony clean,” Callahan said. “There is nobody that takes more pride in protecting the passer than this group of guys. Talk is cheap. We have to go out there Monday and show people we got it right.”
The Cowboys will get their next chance when the host the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football. That means protecting Romo from such Bears’ defenders who include Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher, for starters.