The depth of the offensive line has been an often debated issue for the Cowboys all offseason, with good reason. Outside of the starters, Dallas is relying heavily on generally unprovens, most of which have seen very little playing time. The two backups who did see significant playing time last year, Cory Proctor and Montrae Holland, were shaky in the absence of Kyle Kosier.
Kosier is back, which will help. But if he goes down, as he did last year, missing thirteen games with a fractured foot, well, it doesn't look all that promising.
This is the subject of David Moore's piece in today's Dallas Morning News, in which he says that Jerry Jones will be focused on that unit tonight in Oakland. "We need depth in the offensive line," Jones said in the article, titled Dallas Cowboys Turn Focus To Offensive Line. "I will feel better after we've played Oakland and a couple of these preseason games to see how our depth performs."
Okay, it will be interesting. But the offensive lineman I was most excited to see in action, rookie tackle Robert Brewster, is done for the year with a torn pectoral muscle.
As for the other backups, Moore writes: "[Pat] McQuistan is entering his fourth season without a start. [Doug] Free is entering his third season without a start and with only four games as an active player. Guard Ryan Gibbons is 26 years old and has never been active for a game."
Offensive line coach Hudson Houck maintains that the unit is in good position entering tonight's preseason opener in Oakland, that the depth has actually improved. But aside from personal progress on the part of the backups themselves--and Houck maintains that they have improved significantly, Free and McQuistan in particular--there isn't much in the way of reassurance for injury-wary fans.
And according to Tim MacMahon at the DMN Cowboys Blog, this is only half true. "Doug Free has had a solid camp," MacMahon said in a post this afternoon. However, he continues, "If what we've seen from Pat McQuistan during camp translates into the game environment, Jon Kitna and Stephen McGee might be in trouble. McQuistan has been a turnstile for the Cowboys' edge pass rushers, including rookies Victor Butler and Brandon Williams."
As optimistic as Houck sounds, the fact that Leonard Davis has seen time at left tackle (where Davis played in Arizona) during camp points to some injury-wariness on behalf of the staff themselves. It might also be a sign that they've taken notice of McQuistan's pedestrian level of play at the position, after spending the offseason practicing at guard.
Translation: Yes, the Cowboys have issues with depth on the offensive line. If and how this will be addressed, no one will know until, at least, after tonight. But fans can take some level of comfort in knowing that whatever happens, Jerry the former Razorback lineman, is watching.