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Mailbag: What's The Solution On The O-Line?


Rather than shuffle between Brandon Knight and Terence Steele at tackle, does it make sense to move one of the guards (Zack Martin or Connor Williams) out to right tackle and then start Connor McGovern? Would he be an improvement and get your best five guys out there? — JONATHAN LEVINE / SILVER SPRING, MD

Rob: With La'el Collins on IR and Tyron Smith still dealing with this neck issue, I think you have to look at all your options and be ready to adjust as things go. Mike McCarthy has said he doesn't want to change out more than one line spot if he can help it, and I understand his thinking, especially with Joe Looney currently sidelined at center. It's nice to have a veteran presence at the guard positions to help Tyler Biadasz. Brandon Knight is probably your best option at tackle without Collins and Smith, and the Cowboys have made an effort to add more options at the position, signing Greg Senat and adding Jordan Mills (with 84 career starts) to the practice squad. Cam Erving is making progress on IR, so perhaps he's an option this week or next. But it's a big question they'll have to answer for however long Smith is sidelined.

Jonny: I think we're getting closer and closer to that solution. You're probably likely to have less big breakdowns with Martin taking on the responsibility at tackle and hoping McGovern can hold his own. The problem is that Martin is such a dominant guard that moving him to a position where he might only be average for a long sample size is a tough pill to swallow. Acknowledging that circumstances might take away what you thought was a strength is not something a team wants to do so early in the season.

Are we overanalyzing what's wrong with the defense? Isn't it really pretty simple? Turnovers! The offense's turnovers have put the defense on short fields. And our defense doesn't create any turnovers which would put the offense on a short field. If we were a plus-7 would we even be talking about the other problems (stopping the run, missed assignments)? I'm confident our record with be 4-0. DAVE NYSTROM / LOUDON, TN

Rob: I wrote about this extensively in my weekly “3 & Out” column. It's the single biggest reason for the 1-3 start. It's not the only reason, and yes, we'd still be talking about some of the problems they've had defensively. Anytime you're giving up big plays on the back end or 300-plus yards on the ground, it's alarming and they know it's got to be fixed. But the franchise has missed the playoffs 10 of the last 11 times they've finished the season with a minus-turnover ratio. It's a huge factor.

Jonny: Well, sure. If the offense had less turnovers and the defense had gotten lucky with a few fumbles then the Cowboys' record would be better than 1-3. But that wouldn't mean that the defense wasn't still compromised. They are missing tackles. They aren't getting consistent enough pressure, and their secondary is getting routinely picked on. Turnovers aren't completely the product of chance. If their run defense were decent then they might force more third and longs and opposing quarterbacks might be forced to take more risks leading to more turnovers. The problem might be simple, but the solution is not.


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