The San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens represent the best that the NFL had to offer in 2012. Obviously. They did play in the Super Bowl. But they also represent the two things that the Dallas Cowboys lack the most: a good front office and solid lines on both sides of the ball. Where Dallas seemed content to pick flashy players in the first few rounds (and with all due respect, some did pan out-Dez Bryant especially), the 49ers and Ravens invested heavily in their lines on both sides of the ball, while filling the flashier positions with either the rare first round pick (Joe Flacco), a later pick (Ray Rice in the second) or cheap free agency (Jacoby Jones).
Nov 24, 2011; Arlington, TX, USA; Miami Dolphins tight end Anthony Fasano (80) runs after catching a pass during the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys cornerback Frank Walker (25) on Thanksgiving day at Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys beat the Dolphins 20-19. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
From 2005-2007, the Ravens drafted six players on either side of the line. The Dallas Cowboys drafted three in the same time period. While
the Ravens received valuable players like Marshal Yanda and Ben Grubbs, the Cowboys received James Marten.
The other two picks were Jason Hatcher and Marcus Spears.
The Cowboys focused enough on their defensive line, and though they didn’t nail the picks like the Ravens did with Ngata, they also never had the opportunity to draft as high. They did not focus on their offensive line.
I chose the time period for a specific reason. They hit on two of their three first picks: Anthony Spencer and Demarcus Ware formed a nice duo this year and a decent one before-, but the Cowboys failed to sign anyone to protect the most expensive, valuable, and important asset in football.
In 2005, Drew Bledsoe was the quarterback. He struggled to move just about anywhere. If the Cowboys knew that he struggled in the pocket, and had no idea that Tony Romo would go to the Pro Bowl the next season, why wouldn’t they draft someone in at least the first two rounds to protect him?
Part of the reason was that the inner offensive line was actually pretty good. Andre Gurode was solid, Larry Allen still played and Marco Rivera was hoped to be able to play that season. The Cowboys latter cut him due to back problems.
However, Larry Allen was 33 and turned 34 in November, Marco Rivera was 32 and they still had problems at tackle. They did not address the issue until the sixth round. They picked Demarcus Ware first, so they get a pass for picking the best player, along with a future Hall of Famer. They also drafted Marcus Spear in the first round.
In that draft, the first offensive lineman drafted was Alex Barron who was picked before Ware. Chris Spencer came next, six spots later. The Dallas Cowboys actually get a pass for not drafting a lineman in 2005 because there were none worth taking in the Cowboys’ spot in the first three rounds.
The next Dallas Cowboys draft is a different story.
The Cowboys drafted Bobby Carpenter with the 18th pick that year, and he fell on the wrong half of the draft results. 18 of the first 33 picks became Pro Bowlers. Carpenter failed to attain that illustrious peak. His career had very few peaks. Carpenter was, without a doubt, a grade A bust.
Davin Joseph, a Pro Bowl guard, became a Buccaneer five picks after the Dallas Cowboys selected Carpenter. At this point, Larry Allen was old and Marco Rivera had just completed a healthy season, but both at that time were healthy, so ignoring the line wasn’t a grave sin, though it really, in hindsight, should have been a priority.
At that point, however, the line stood in not-awful shape, though a future replacement for Larry Allen needed to be found.
Fast forward to 2007.
They really tried in this draft.
They drafted two lineman in their first four picks. But the damage had been done. Instead of focusing on cheap alternatives in the second or even third round for offensive line, they drafted basically everywhere else, including two cornerbacks in the later rounds and a quarterback turned wide-out.
Not addressing the line may have seemed defensible at that point, but almost completely ignoring a line with two guards in their mid-thirties is, in hindsight, a grave error.
Had the Cowboys seen history repeat itself in 2009 and 2010 and started drafting offensive lineman left and right when they had an offensive line all approaching or past thirty, they would be forgiven. They, however, did not.
They get a pass for 2009, since they had no first or second round pick. In 2010, they nailed their first two round picks, but then the Dallas Cowboys proceeded to choose just one lineman for the rest of the draft. I often write about the importance of depth. Dallas had an offensive line mostly in their mid thirties and they had the benefit of experiencing the troubles that come along with free agent bailouts previously, so how could they not use at least a fourth round pick on the position when starting offensive lineman can still be found in the fourth round?
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. But fool me three times, when the team faces a terrible offensive line that required free agent stop gaps like two times previously that caused serious cap and on the field play problems for all but two years, and I’m just an idiot.
Be the Ravens. Please Cowboys, just draft an offensive lineman.