Are the Cowboys Changing Their Offensive Lineman Profiles?

During my weekly conversation with Wes Bunting, he talked up an athletic, modestly undersized center from a West coast university, whom I’ll profile later on Friday.  He finished a glowing report, but ended by saying the player was in the 290-300 lb. range, adding, “he doesn’t look like Dallas’ type of player.”

I had to caution him that the Cowboys appear to be changing, or at least broadening their offensive lineman templates in recent years.  During the Jimmy Johnson/Barry Switzer era, the Cowboys build a fearsome line which ranked among the league’s biggest.  The Cowboys wanted size and power, and found a group of big mashers who could also run.  Larry Allen, Erik Williams and the underutilized (as a Cowboy) Ron Stone fit this profile.

Dallas has continued to draft mashers, with diminishing degrees of success.  After Flozell Adams and Andre Gurode were taken the Cowboys did not have a solid home-picked hit until Doug Free.  Free, of course, was a player from the Bill Parcells regime, and Parcells seemed to curb the zeal for the truly huge linemen, though he and Jeff Ireland had nothing to show for their picks until Free arrived in 2006.

Free is a more athletic type of lineman.  He started his college career as a tight end, before switching to the line.  He weighed 305 lbs. at his year’s Combine.  Dallas has added over ten pounds of muscle to his frame, but his running ability remains.  His sprint downfield to lead Felix Jones’ touchdown in the season-finale against the Eagles remains his signature play.  He can pull to lead sweeps, and he can run upfield with sidekick Kyle Kosier to lead screens.

Their athleticism stands in contrast to the sluggers on Dallas’ right side.  Marc Colombo pulled a lot before his knees started to break down, but neither Leonard Davis nor Andre Gurode function well in space.  They leave Dallas with a schizophrenic line;  the Cowboys have pullers on their left and pushers on their right.  Since the left side guys perform better, some evidence suggests the Cowboys will continue looking for more Free types.

Dallas just missed on the 305 lb. Max Unger two drafts ago, a player they projected to guard, and who played center late in his Oregon career. Yesterday, the team signed the 290 lb. Jermey Parnell off New Orleans’ practice squad.  Today, it released Robert Brewster, a big-bodied slugger from clearly in the ’90s and early ’00s mold.

Pernell, like Free, started at a different position.  He played on Mississippi’s defensive line his senior year.  He  played just that year of college ball before entering the NFL, so he’s still raw.  The Cowboys must see promise, since they’ll have to keep Parnell on their active roster for the duration of his Dallas career, however long that may be.

Even if Parnell fails in Dallas, his signing likely means more guys in his mold and Frees, will come to the team in future drafts, instead of the Shane Hannah, George Hegamin-types.  The Cowboys have size and speed at all their skill positions.  It makes sense to add linemen who can mirror their athleticismc especially in a league which is moving more and more to the 3-4 and to active fronts like Tennessee’s, where all four DLs can change direction at speed.  This quality may now take priority over raw girth.

Or, Parnell could simply be a short-lived curio.  As always, we’ll see.

Tonight:  Wes Bunting and I finish our weekly chat with more on that athletic center, among other players.

Rafael Vela

Rafael Vela

Senior Analyst Cowboys at Sports Talk Line
Started covering Dallas Cowboys @ in '95 and '96. Two more stops along the way and here I am. Senior Analyst for
Rafael Vela

Enjoyed this post? Share it!

  • DDThinks

    Maybe I’m off my rocker, but, wasn’t this transition to more athletic lineman already in process? Jacob Rogers, I thought, was more finesse than masher. Peterman too, wasn’t he supposed to me more “technician?” And Kosier is a clear example.

    What will be more telling, imo, of a change in philosophy about offensive lineman is where they are taken in the draft. I actually agree with Jerry’s long standing take on drafting them after round 1, but, obviously that makes it much more critical that the scouting department can isolate traits for success in a much larger pool of candidates with fewer levels of separation between them.

    • Parcells did start the move to *some* more athletic o-lineman, you are correct, but they were all over the map with their picks. Those two you mention — Rogers was the more athletic 310 type but Peterman was a 325-330 lb. slugger. No consistency in those two. And that’s part of the problem. Look at their current line. Kyle Kosier and Leonard Davis are two very different types of guards.

      • kameleon_o

        They’re two different types of guard all right but Kosier is starting to look more and more like Davis all the time. He whiffed on that block Sunday and just looked SLOW!! Our inability to draft good O-llinemen is really hurting us right now.

      • kameleon_o

        Didn’t Parcells also want to go after Shawn Andrews?? I remember him wanting to move up for him. I would put him in the “big slugger” type category myself.

  • Dipeshc4

    Raf, Free was drafted after Parcells had retired. He was Ireland’s first and last draft.

    • @Dipesch4,Ireland was with Parcells the whole time i Dallas. Parcells was there when the board was starting to be assembled and he was an “advisor,” that spring.Yeah, Ireland was in charge, but he was working off the lessons Parcells had given him. Parcells used to say he wanted to “give Ireland his eyes.” I doubt Ireland changed the way he assessed players just that spring. He followed Parcells to Miami after all. Those two work off the same script.

      • And remember, Ireland drafted Free *after* he selected James Marten, who was no better than Brewster.

        • AlanTdot

          Brewster is a bust already? Off all last year and one quarter into his ‘first’ year the third rounder is cut?

  • Dezislegend

    its the scouting department
    Tom Cizkowski is great
    but their rating system on safties and offensive lineman has not been good for years
    it looks to me they are changing that system, thank god thats a move in the right direction
    but letting go of Brewster was not a smart move imo
    Brewster might of been a good guard imo, why not just release Barron
    I dont care if his contract is guaranteed its uncapped year and Barron sucks
    in order to cut Brewster they seriously think he sucks then and Parnell is better
    I still dont like that move at all
    two players they could of cut over Brewster even 3
    Sam Young, who could be on our PS
    Brandon Williams doesnt need to be here
    Barron should of been gone in Washington

  • Seb

    What profile does Brewster fit, now that he has been given a bus schedule and an apple.

    2009 draft is going to kill this team. No measurable talent aquired through first two years.

    • kameleon_o

      12 picks and your only two to pan out are a kicker and a 3rd string TE. I like Phillips but come on!!! Jerry blew that draft off and it’ll bite this team in the ass in the years to come. Like this year….

  • T.


    I think it’s a little unfair to put Colombo in that company. I think he has had the ability to run in space during his career, when healthy.

  • AustonianAggie

    Change is definitely in the air in Dallas. Free’s played well enough to make anyone reconsider their previous approach. But the simple fact that Dallas is cutting guys and signing others in season is a huge change in the Wade Phillips era

    • hatetheiggles

      It sort of feels like desperation mode doesn’t it? The personnel decisions by the “GM” are baffling. It took them until mid-October to determine that Hamlin and Brewster stunk? They insist on proving themselves right about the kicker. They could be at least 2-2 with a legitimate kicker. Barber is still a starter, as is Davis. They got rid of Barbie, but have no replacement as the nickel LB. Why the hell aren’t they cutting that stiff Jason Williams? Why was Sean Lee drafted? Is Allan Ball still on the team? I haven’t heard his name mentioned this year and he’s never on the stat sheet-as in no tackles,PBU’s or(gasp) INT’s. You would think the current regime would do something correct by accident once in a while. This sort of reminds me of the post-Jimmy era. We watched as the team deteriorated and was never restocked in his absence. Well, Big Bill has been out of here for 4 years and it looks much the same. I wait for Sunday with much angst.

  • Luke

    I’ve been complaining about the Oline template for the last few years. And with the success of Free I was hoping they had changed their priorities. The drafting of Sam Young gave me doubts though as he fits the horrible RT profile they’ve continued failing with (Pettiti, Colombo, Marten, Young – Huge, Tall, Un-athletic).

    I really hope they’ve finally seen the error of their ways. Yet another Oline draft failure (Brewster), a third round pick no less, should surely have them frantically assessing how they grade Olineman.

    Ps. Free was taken in the 2007 draft so Bill was gone.

    • JimmyJohnsonSB

      Isn’t it a little late into the Wade/Garrett administrations to re-shape our O-Line? (Unless Jerry knows he’s getting a Shannahan person to replace them).

      My advice to the Cowboys on offensive linemen is the same thing I pointed out in 2009 when we drafted Brewster:
      You have no idea how to scout and pick offensive linemen. Don’t get cute. Use the guidebooks. The consensus was Brewster was the 22nd best Tackle and a 6th-7th round pick. You don’t reach for that guy in the 3rd round (or trade out of the 2nd) when there could still be quality people available.

      • Luke

        I don’t think it’s a Wade/Garrett problem.

        I think it’s a scouting problem first and possibly a GM problem second.

        Your advice is exactly what I’m talking about. We seem to have no idea how to grade Olinemen. The template we use to judge them is terrible. We always seem to have quality Olinemen rated a round or more lower than everybody else. That’s not Wade and Garrett, they have very little to do with arranging the scouting board I think (and it was like that before they got here anyway), but much more to do with our scouts and GM.