When you look at all the problems this year for the Cowboys, protection, the offensive line is the main one.
Jones and Barber are not good enough to find other ways to make plays on a consistent basis in the run game. The Cowboys have placed too much faith in the offensive line to open running lanes knowing Jones needs space to make people miss and Barber, while isn't afraid of contact, doesn't bounce off defenders nearly as much as he used too.
Tony Romo is good at avoiding pressure but sometimes he needs to stand in the pocket and find receivers down the field. Left tackle Doug Free was late off the ball twice, once leading to an interception and another time it resulted in a tipped pass. Alex Barron, who the team traded for to add depth, cost Dallas a season-opening victory with a holding call on the potential game-winning touchdown.
Health issues to Marc Colombo, Andre Gurode and Kyle Kosier raises questions about their long-term futures. Leonard Davis was benched earlier in the year and Free has played well. Montrae Holland, who was re-signed in the offseason as a backup, has played OK.
Mel Kiper, ESPN's resident draft expert, explored the offensive line issues for the Cowboys with a column on Friday. You need to be an ESPN Insider to check it out.
Here's a sampling of what Kiper said of the offensive line:
• Since 2004, the "best" offensive lineman Dallas has drafted is Doug Free, a fourth-rounder in 2007.
• Since 2005, they've drafted 48 players and Free is the most productive lineman of all those picks.
• The best O-lineman Dallas has taken in the last 10 years is Andre Gurode in 2002, whom they got in the second round.
• The Cowboys haven't drafted an offensive lineman within the first two rounds since 2004, when they picked Jacob Rogers out of USC. Rogers got hurt and was quickly out of the league.
• Before Gurode, the last offensive lineman the Cowboys picked who really panned out was the once-great Flozell Adams, who they grabbed in the second round … in 1998.