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2011 Draft Positional Series: Offensive Line

Heading into the offseason this was, and still is, expected to be a position of uncertainty. The only guarantee returning starters are LT Doug Free and C Andre Gurode. Currently, there are questions about every other member of the line. As you can imagine, speculation is high as to what the Cowboys might do with their ninth overall pick in addressing this area.

Starting Line

LT Doug Free – Free was all he was expected to be in his first season as a starter. Free took over for the departed Flozell Adams and preformed on par if not better. Free held his own against some of the leagues best ends and when the line seemed to be collapsing, Free was holding his ground. Free has developed nicely and will earn a substantial pay day when they get around to negotiating players contracts. Look for Free to anchor the left side of the Cowboys line for a while.

LG Kyle Kosier – Kosier had a decent season. He is one of the Cowboys smartest lineman and when he is in the game, he often calls the signals for the line. As Kosier has gotten older, he seems to have lost some of his ability to handle the big interior lineman that he often faces. Kosier has become susceptible to the bull rush and has lost some quickness as well. The question with Kosier is health. Does he have enough the ability to stay healthy through one more NFL season? The Cowboys will likely roll the dice but will have Montrae Holland or a prospect waiting in the wings just in case.

C Andre Gurode – Since moving to center from guard, Gurode has done nothing but succeed. He is a mauler in the middle and rarely gets beat. He has improved his strength and football intelligence over the course of his career. He has a great dynamic with Tony Romo and has taken on a leadership role on the team. Hard to believe that a once “Parcells Whipping Boy” Gurode has developed into a perennial Pro Bowler. He will continue to man the center for the Cowboys.

RG Leonard Davis – No one had a more roller-coaster season than big Leonard Davis. Davis came over from Arizona in 2007 and up until this last season, was a force. Davis was a road paver and opened up massive holes for the running backs behind him. This season was a different story. While Davis had his moments it seemed like he was being criticised most often. He was pulled in a game against the Titans week 5, and struggled in many more appearances. It is strange that a mainstay would take such a drastic step back in one year. The Cowboys hope it was just an enigma and that he will be back to his old self this year. But, he may not make it that far if the Cowboys try to save some money and cut him.

RT Marc Colombo – Colombo got a raw end of the deal last year. He never seemed fully recovered from his broken fibula suffered half way through the 2009 season. He looked a step slower and had lost some of the “nastiness” that we have come to expect from him. Colombo figures to be the one replaced on the line this season and his position is the one most talked about when it comes to the draft. Colombo’s biggest down fall has been his injuries. When he is healthy and mentally right, Colombo is a good option at tackle. We will see this offseason, but it appears that Colombo has started his last game for the Cowboys.

Other Players:

G Montrae Holland – Holland is an invaluable backup. He has good power and strength at the guard position. He may even end up starting this season. A veteran backup like him is a good deal even if he fails to crack the starting group.

T Alex Barron – Not sure why he is still on the team. Barron has proven to not be an option moving forward and I would be shocked if he is a Cowboy come September.

C Phil Costa – While Costa played sparingly at guard in a couple of games, the Cowboys really like his potential. He is probably one more year away from possibly cracking the lineup and being a starter on the line, whether at guard or center.

T Sam Young – The rookie out of Notre Dame didn’t make an impact last season and with all the talk about drafting another tackle high, might not make one this season either. Young has the tools but hasn’t convinced the Cowboys he is up to the challenge. This is a big year for him.

T Jeremy Parnell – Parnell is a project the Cowboys picked up from New Orleans. Not sure that he will make much of an impact and will likely be a casualty in training camp.

T/G Robert Brewster – A lot of people were really high on the 3rd rounder from Ball State. He was expected to step up and compete this season. After a strong training camp Brewster disappeared and fell out of favor with the coaches. He was cut and later picked up and placed on the practice squad. He needs to take a big step this season.

2011 Draft Prospects:

Interior Line:

1. Mike Pouncey – Florida – 6’5, 305 lbs. – Pouncey is a Is a quick-footed center with good flexibility and athleticism. Has surprising quickness and speed to get outside to lead block on outside runs. He has the versatility to play both center/guard and is a great technical blocker. He uses his quickness and agility well and has great lateral movement. He isn’t the strongest guy and can get pushed around a little. He uses his leverage well most of the time, but does have problems with big tackles. Projected: Top 25

2. Danny Watkins – G – Baylor – 6’3, 310 lbs. – Watkins is a tremendous talent on the line. He is a powerful run blocker and strong, natural athlete. He is good in space and very good off the line. He has a mean streak that is often looked for in good linemen. Has a great work ethic. He has short arms that affect him in pass protection and not a lot of experience playing. He is still learning how to best utilize his hands and is turning 27 in November which puts him ahead of the average prospect. Projected 2nd Round.

3. Marcus Cannon – G/T – TCU – 6’6, 358 lbs. – Cannon is a monster. He is huge. He has played some tackle and guard which makes him a valuable pick up. He started for 3 years at TCU and has a lot of experience. He is nimble on his feet for such a big man, and uses his frame very well. He has good strength and technique. He does struggle slightly with quick pass rushers and speed rushing moves, but if he gets his hands on you, you might as well wait until the next play. Projected 2nd Round

4. Stefan Wisniewski – C – Penn State – 6’3, 306 lbs. – Wisniewski is one of the best technical blockers in the game. He is also a great athlete who can play almost anywhere on the line. He thrives inside where he has great positioning and movement. He is a form blocker and gets great extension. He has a great work ethic and plays to the whistle. He lacks ideal size and does struggle against bigger opponents. He doesn’t have an explosive first punch and can sometimes get caught leaning a little. Projected: 2-3 Round.

Other Notables:
1. Rodney Hudson – G/C – Florida State – 6’2, 299 lbs. – Projected 2-3 Round.
2. Orlando Franklin – G – Miami – 6’6, 319 lbs. – Projected 2-3 Round.

Offensive Tackles:

1. Tyron Smith – USC – 6’5, 310 lbs. – Smith has the potential to be a top tackle in the NFL. He has all the tools and is built very well, but he lacks the experience. He is an excellent pass blocker and has good, long arms. He is quick off the snap and has great feet. He has great balance and could possibly play both sides. He isn’t a powerful run blocker and could use some lower body strength. Projected Top 15

2. Anthony Castonzo – Boston College – 6’7, 313 lbs. – Of all the tackles Castonzo might be the only one ready to step on the field immediately after the draft. He is an NFL ready tackle. He is very intelligent and has great technique. He is very athletic and agile and started 4 years (3 at tackle) at BC. He needs to put on some weight and improve his run blocking. Sometimes struggles with the bull rush. He needs to get a little stronger. Projected Top 20

3. Gabe Carimi – Wisconsin – 6’7, 314 lbs. – Carimi is an excellent run blocker and a powerful lineman. Has good size, strength, and bulk for a tackle. Very intelligent and has a tenacious attitude. He lacks agility and movement on the edge with speed rushers. His hands need some work and sometimes bends at the waist more than the knees. Could use a year of seasoning. Projected Top 25

4. Derrick Sherrod – Mississippi State – 6’6, 311 lbs. – Sherrod is a natural pass blocking tackle. He can play both left or right and has great agility and movement. Has good height and size and is able to mirror defenders very well. Has high character and very intelligent and also a lot of experience against good competition. Struggles in run blocking and tends to lunge when he punches. Needs to add strength and work on his balance. Projected Top 25

Other Notables:
1. Nate Solder – Colorado – 6’8, 307 lbs. Projected 1st Round
2. James Carpenter – Alabama – 6’4, 321 lbs. Projected 2-3 Round
3. Benjamin Ijalana – Villanova – 6’4, 313 lbs. Projected 2-3 Round

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