Cowboys’ line is a load of trouble for Minnesota
minneapolis» The fuel for this dazzling season for the Dallas Cowboys can be found up front, with an offensive line that has helped make this team a handful to try to stop.
“They’re really, really good. They’re the best line I’ve seen in a long time in the NFL: physical, athletic, big,” said the usually understated Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, who could be forgiven if he sounded envious of the group on the other side.
Just as the front five have made a significant impact on the success of the Cowboys (10-1), the ever-important position has played a major hand in the recent slide by the Vikings (6-5).
With center Joe Berger ruled out of the game Thursday night because of a concussion, the Vikings will use their seventh different starting lineup combination in 12 games this season; Nick Easton makes his first NFL start. That doesn’t include others who’ve subbed in for injured teammates on the fly.
“Once again we’ve got to rework the line,” left guard Alex Boone said, “and figure out what we can do best.”
The Vikings have struggled for the last three seasons to establish a reliable, stable starting five. Injuries, particularly this year with three starting tackles on injured reserve, have ravaged the position. But they’ve only invested two picks in the first three rounds of the last 10 drafts in an offensive lineman, with right tackle Phil Loadholt (No. 54 overall) in 2009 and left tackle Matt Kalil (No. 4 overall) in 2012.
Loadholt retired before training camp because of injuries. Kalil had season-ending hip surgery after playing in the first two games this season.
The Cowboys, by stark contrast, have three first-round draft picks in their starting lineup: left tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick and right guard Zack Martin.
Zimmer has emergency surgery.
The Vikings coach late Wednesday had to get emergency eye surgery. This is about a month after he had an initial procedure to repair a torn retina. Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said Zimmer was having the operation and uncertain to recover in time for Thursday’s game. Spielman said he has met with coaches and players to put a contingency plan in place.