Can the Cowboys Protect Tony Romo?

The Cowboys had lots of issues last season, but the nail in the coffin had to be when Tony Romo was lying on the turf in pain.

With aspirations of heading to Indianapolis at the end of this season, the Dallas Cowboys knew they had to do at least one thing—improve their protection of quarterback Tony Romo.

A number of issues plagued the Cowboys last season; many they handled when they switched from Wade Phillips to Jason Garrett. The addition of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will help shore up the defense. That left the offensive line as the area needing the most attention.

In all fairness, the unit was not that bad last year. Over the course of the season they only gave up 31 sacks, good enough for the 11th best unit in the NFL. They weren’t quite as good in keeping the QB from getting hit; Dallas signal callers were hit 75 times (No 16 in the league).

No matter how good your offensive line is, when your quarterback gets knocked out for the season (even though it was the up-back that missed a block on that fateful play) you look at retooling the offensive line. So far during this preseason the Dallas Cowboys have done just that.

What should be the final move of the preseason was on Tuesday when the team let go Pro Bowl center Andre Gurode.

"These are the decisions made around the league...really every year," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "And they're hard decisions to make -- guys who have been so good for you for so long and you have to move on to the next guy, the younger guy."

Gurode was drafted by the Cowboys in 2002 as a center, but was quickly moved to guard. When the team moved him back to center in 2006 he became a regular in the Pro Bowl going every year through last season.

The move paves the way for Phil Costa to take over at center. Costa will not be the only new starter since the Cowboys have cut two other veteran linemen this off-season, Marc Colombo and Leonard Davis. The moves really don’t come as a surprise since the team spent three draft picks on offensive linemen in the last draft including their first round pick offensive tackle Tyron Smith from USC.

Head coach Jason Garrett does not hold any preconceived notions about the unit being impenetrable from the start.

“There will be challenges all over the place for them individually and collectively, and we have a long way to go and we’re going to try to take advantage of these practices leading up to (the opener), but we feel good about the direction we’re going,” Garrett said.

If the preseason is any indication, the unit is not going to be a bad one. Over the three games that they have played so far they have given up six sacks, an average that would be on par with last season. With the line only returning one starter at the same spot he was in last season (tackle Doug Free) the hope in Dallas was that the line will get even better.

Can they protect Tony Romo this season? We will find out pretty soon.
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