The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

Mailbag: 3/18/10 (Rotating linemen, compensatory picks)

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Might it be possible to substitute someone in for the big guy a few plays a game?

Q: Why would the Cowboys not draft a LT prospect to rotate with Flozell Adams a few plays per game, and do the same with other OL personnel (Colombo/Free)?

John Coleman, Bassett, VA

A: Line substitutions have traditionally been limited to the defensive side of the ball, but we kind of like your thinking here. Football has evolved into a sport of personnel packages. The Cowboys bring in different packages of skill positions players on offense based on down and distance. They do the same with the entire defense.

So why does the offensive line, on basically every NFL team, remain stagnant? Our best guess is that you always want your best players protecting your quarterback. It could be risky, for example, substituting a rookie for Flozell Adams in a 3rd and Long situation.

Still, there do seem to be situations where the idea makes a lot of sense. The Cowboys loved what they saw in Doug Free last season, so why not rotate him with Marc Colombo at right tackle? We graded Free as superior to Colombo in pass protection, so perhaps the Cowboys should consider substituting Free in during passing situations, just as they do with Tashard Choice.

These “linemen packages” do not necessarily have to tip the defense as to a certain play. The substitution of Choice on 3rd down, for example, does not guarantee a pass. Further, during situations such as 3rd and Long when the defense all but knows a pass is going to be dialed up, why not have your best pass protectors in the game?

The problem with substituting a rookie for Adams is that the veteran left tackle’s weakness is obviously pass protecting. Trusting a rookie in 2nd and 5 is a bit different than 3rd and 10 on Romo’s blind side against the opponent’s best pass-rusher. However, you could make the argument that he would still be better than Adams in pass protection at this point.

Q: When will the NFL announce the compensatory draft picks for this year? Do you think Dallas will receive anything better than a single pick at the end of the 6th round? Thanks!

The Cowboys could have received a fairly high compensatory draft pick for losing Chris Canty had they not signed so many other free agents.

Edward Toerner, Lafayette, LA

A: Good question Edward. Compensatory picks will be awarded at the annual NFL meeting, this year being held from March 21-24.

Unfortunately, Dallas does not stand to receive anything too worthwhile again this season in terms of compensatory selections. These picks are based not only on free agents a team loses, but also those a team signs.

So while the squad could have benefited greatly from Chris Canty signing with the Giants (or even a little from Kevin Burnett signing with the Chargers), these losses are negated because Dallas picked up players such as Keith Brooking, Gerald Sensabaugh, and Igor Olshansky.

Now, a team can still be awarded selections for losing better free agents (i.e. ones who sign for more money), so the Cowboys should be in line to receive a selection via that route. The problem is that, without losing more free agents than they signed, the Cowboys cannot attain any higher than a 7th round selection for any players lost.

Further, salary is not the sole determiner of a player’s value (although it is the primary factor). Playing time also counts some. Remember, though, that Canty got injured and missed basically the entire season.

Altogether, don’t bank on the Cowboys receiving anything special here in the coming week.

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2 Responses to Mailbag: 3/18/10 (Rotating linemen, compensatory picks)

  1. Long Ball says:

    One of the reasons you do not see a rotation of offensive linemen in the NFL is the timing of movements that are developed over the years. Orchestrating a ballet of five 300+ lbs. linemen operating in close quarters can be tricky with pulling, trap blocks, double teams, blitz pick-ups and the like cannot be easily duplicated. Plus you have the understanding and non-verbal communication with the men playing next to you that is developed over time. If you look at the “dynasty” teams through the years (Browns of the 50′s, Packers of the 60′s, Dolphins and Steelers of the 70′s, 49′ers of the 80′s, Cowboys of the 90′s, Patriots of the 00′s), they all had OL units that had been together for multiple seasons.

  2. jongb35 says:

    Good points. Cohesiveness seems to be more important among linemen than any other positions in football.

    Seeing as how Free stepped in an played fairly well, do you see that as motivation for Dallas to possibly use some sort of RT rotation?

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