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Bad Luck, Not Bad Drafting, To Blame for Offensive Line Woes

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    Everybody and their mother is worrying about Tony Romo's ability to remain upright behind a patchwork offensive line this weekend, so it is no surprise that some people are trying to figure out why the Cowboys find themselves with so little depth up front. 

    You could probably start and finish by saying that there are maybe three teams in the entire NFL that could see two starting offensive linemen and a key backup hurt at the same time and not find serious doubts about their ability to win football games. That kind of easy rationale doesn't really work for the Cowboys, though. We've got to dig deeper, we've got to assign blame and, if at all possible, Jerry Jones needs to be the man who suffers our critical glare.

    Enter Jean-Jacques Taylor of the Dallas Morning News. Taylor believes Jones is culpable for the current situation because the Cowboys don't draft very well. You'd have an impossible time arguing that they've done a good job of drafting offensive linemen, because the Cowboys have neither prioritized the position nor landed many blue chippers.

    But the whole idea that the Cowboys don't draft well in general isn't one that holds much water. It certainly held true in the latter part of the 1990s when they couldn't find a good player to save their lives, but not so much anymore. The jury is still out on 2009 but the class of 2008 includes five key contributors out of six picks. Anthony Spencer, Doug Free and Alan Ball speak well of the job done in 2007 and 2005 turned up DeMarcus Ware, Marcus Spears, Marion Barber and Jay Ratliff -- in the seventh round! -- among other contributors. Obviously we're passing over bombs like tackle James Marten in 2007 and the mess that was 2006 but is that really much worse than any other team?

    And an even better question: Which of those players would you throw back for an offensive lineman? Would you rather the team didn't build out their defense or create one of the deeper running back crews in the league? Despite what people like Mel Kiper and Mike Mayock would have you believe, the draft isn't a science. It's a crapshoot and it is one that the Cowboys have navigated well enough to be a Super Bowl contender.

    That's what makes this such a lazy argument. You could rearrange the names of players and positions and say the reason why the Cowboys can't rush the passer or pass the ball or whatever is because they haven't drafted well because the whole thesis is predicated on ignoring the successes. 

    Obviously the Cowboys should aspire to do a better job of drafting offensive linemen. It is the cheapest way to acquire talent in the NFL and the best way to ensure you have players well-suited to your system. But the truth is that there's no way to avoid being up the creek without a paddle when you lose offensive linemen faster than a discussion of "Twilight" loses the attention of adults.  

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.