The primary question mark surrounding the Cowboys’ offense coming into 2012 was the offensive line. As it turned out, the organization’s inability or unwillingness to significantly upgrade the line was eventually their downfall. As a whole, the line was consistently poor throughout the season, both in the running game and pass protection.
I’ve tracked the line’s pass protection throughout the season in terms of sacks allowed and penalties. Below, I posted the results for each offensive lineman, along with their pressure rate, as per Pro Football Focus.
LT Tyron Smith
- 37 pressures (6.0 percent), 3 sacks (0.49 percent), 11 penalties
LG Nate Livings
- 14 pressures (1.9 percent), 5 sacks (0.68 percent), 3 penalties
C Phil Costa
- 1 pressure (1.7 percent), 0 sacks, 0 penalties
C Ryan Cook
- 12 pressures (2.2 percent), 2 sacks (0.37 percent), 3 penalties
RG Mackenzy Bernadeau
- 24 pressures (3.3 percent), 6 sacks (0.81 percent), 3 penalties
RT Doug Free
- 42 pressures (6.2 percent), 7 sacks (1.0 percent), 13 penalties
RT Jermey Parnell
- 8 pressures (4.2 percent), 5 sacks (2.6 percent), 2 penalties
For the sake of comparison, I broke down the numbers for the average top 10 player at each position, separating left and right tackle as two distinct positions and grouping both guard spots together.
Top 10 LT
- 18 pressures (3.0 percent), 4 sacks (0.66 percent), 6 penalties
Top 10 G
- 13 pressures (2.1 percent), 2 sacks (0.32 percent), 4 penalties
Top 10 C
- 10 pressures (1.6 percent), 2 sacks (0.32 percent), 3 penalties
Top 10 RT
- 24 pressures (3.8 percent), 5 sacks (0.79 percent), 6 penalties
After accounting for positions, it’s easier to judge how poorly each Cowboys lineman played in 2012. Left tackle Tyron Smith, perhaps the best of the bunch, allowed only three sacks—one below the average for the league’s top 10 left tackles. His 6.0 percent pressure rate was exactly double that of the top players at his position, though.
On the opposite side, right tackle Doug Free gave up only two more sacks than the average top 10 right tackle. Like Smith, he benefitted from having Romo as a quarterback; his pressure rate was nearly twice the average for a top player at his position. Although Jermey Parnell has massive upside, he gave up sacks at a blistering pace in his limited action this year. The numbers suggests he may have gotten a bit unlucky, however, because his pressure rate was below that of Free and Smith, and it actually put Parnell in line with about a top 15 right tackle.
On the inside, Mackenzy Berndadeau struggled for most of the year. His 24 pressures were more fitting of an offensive tackle than an interior lineman. He gave up three times as many sacks as top 10 guards around the league. Nate Livings was better on the left side. Although his sack total was high, it wasn’t representative of how he played; his pressure rate was superior to that of the average top 10 offensive guard.
Finally, Ryan Cook struggled inside, but he wasn’t devastatingly bad. His pressure and sack rates were just slightly above the average of top 10 centers. Phil Costa was outstanding, although he played only 126 total snaps all year.
Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.