The Cowboys offensive line has taken a beating, at least off the field. With the offense struggling and the Cowboys on a three-game losing streak since Tony Romo fractured his left collarbone in Week 2, the offensive line – the strength of the team – hasn’t been immune to criticism or changes.
“I don’t even pay attention to anything outside of this locker room,” left tackle Tyron Smith said. “Any kind of mistakes we do have in a game, I know as a group we always try our best to fix it so we can improve to the next play.”
The Cowboys promoted rookie La’el Collins to the starting unit for Sunday’s game against the New York Giants. He will replace Ron Leary at left guard.
A groin injury has slowed Leary, who has a holding penalty and two sacks allowed this season, while Collins graded out well in the two games he played – one of them a start -- in place of Leary.
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“I’d say it’s probably a combination of both. You know? A combination of both,” offensive line coach Frank Pollack said. “Ron’s played well for us. Expectations are always high in that room, and then LC’s been working hard, and he deserves an opportunity.”
The Cowboys hope Collins can help right the line.
They sent three offensive linemen to the Pro Bowl last season and had two named All-Pro in becoming arguably the league’s top line. They played a big part in DeMarco Murray leading the league in rushing and earning offensive player of the year honors.
Despite having all five players back, though, the Cowboys rank only 18th in rushing (106.2 per game), 15th in yards per rush attempt (4.1) and 19th in sacks allowed (11).
The Cowboys miss their star playmakers, no doubt. Murray now plays in Philadelphia; Romo has been out of the lineup the past three games; and star receiver Dez Bryant fractured his right foot in the season opener.
Still, the Cowboys concede their line hasn’t played its best.
“I think guys are playing hard,” said Pollack, who assisted Bill Callahan last season before earning a promotion when Callahan left for the Redskins in the offseason. “We’re always striving for perfection. It’s something you can’t ever reach, but we’re always striving to get there, and as the old saying goes: You strive for perfection, find excellence along the way.
“We’ll keep looking hard at what we’re doing and keeping finding that perfect game.”
The Cowboys offensive linemen, as a group, have 13 penalties, including five holding penalties, and have been responsible for 6.5 of the sacks allowed, according to STATS, Inc.
“As a unit, we’re still working to improve on a lot of the little things,” said center Travis Frederick, the team’s only offensive lineman without a sack or a penalty this season. “I think we’re good at a lot of things. There’s a lot of things that are going well for us and there are some things we need to continue to improve on. Coach Pollack continues to hound on those things in practice, and we really focus on them, and we’re really trying to get better. Some of those things you get better and it stresses another areas and then you work on that. Through the season you have to continue tweaking and moving things.”