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Eatman: O-Line Expectations Can't Be Met In Preseason


IRVING, Texas – Following the final preseason game against the Broncos, I was adamant about the offense failing to show what it really has so far in the exhibition games.

Maybe that's a good thing. Maybe you don't want to reveal everything you've got in the games that don't matter.

Still, I think we've seen enough of these preseasons to know that you'd like to see a little more of the good stuff to make you comfortable about the regular season. And that just didn't happen.

And the position of strength for this team – or at least what we're expecting – is the offensive line. We saw more penalties and miscues than we saw pure dominance.

Then it hit me – and it hit me around 5 a.m. one morning this week.

*You're not really going to see an overpowering offensive line in the preseason. You're not going to see a team completely push people around over 12 snaps in the first quarter. *

That's not what happens generally in any league, any level of football. Even the smaller high school teams can fly around for a quarter or two and make up the difference when it comes to size. Teams that lack size can blitz here, or stunt there, and keep themselves above water for a while.

But the fourth quarter is when teams wear you down. And that's what I think the Cowboys are counting on with this offense that should run the football more, especially later in games.

So Tyron Smith had a couple of penalties in the preseason. And he had some issues with Terrell Suggs off the edge against Baltimore. Cameron Wake gave the entire line, especially Doug Free, some major problems against Miami.

But what happens in the third quarter? What happens when the offensive line is leaning on you for a couple of hours? [embedded_ad]

That's what the Cowboys are hoping will be a major factor. Now, on the flip side, I'm fully aware that's what defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has to be fearing as well. That's the fear for any defensive coordinator. Then again, not every offensive line will feature three first-round picks.

The biggest key for the Cowboys is going to be getting to the fourth quarter and still having a need to run the ball.

That's when things could get tricky. Sure, the Cowboys will be at their best when they can push people around and give the ball to DeMarco Murray, maybe on all three downs. But if the Cowboys are down by 14 points, then it's harder to do that. But I'm hoping the Cowboys won't abandon the run as quickly as we've seen in the past.

To me, teams do this all the time. They're down 31-17 with 12:45 to play in the game and start to panic. Even if they kept the ball on the ground and play their own game – use up about six minutes on a drive and go get a touchdown, that's still plenty of time to get a stop and get the ball back for a possible tie.

I'm not abandoning from my strength until late in the fourth quarter. Now, if you're down by three scores that's a different story. But it also means you probably weren't having a ton of success running the ball in the first place.

With the season starting up this week, there's a lot of reason to be concerned about this football team. A team that hasn't had a winning record since 2009 and a team that lost a few big-named players off a defense that was ranked last in the NFL last year.

But one of the reasons for optimism is the offense and particularly the offensive line. Maybe you haven't been that excited about what you've seen so far.

Personally, I think this line will look a lot better in a four-quarter game. And guess what, those things finally start this week.

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