Yes, Dallas and its O-line ended 2008 with a whimper - a humiliating 44-6 loss to the Eagles that had quarterback Tony Romo collapsing in the shower. Can this season's unit protect Romo? Pro Bowl left tackle Flozell Adams, in his 12th season at age 34, is on the wane. Last year, his 7.5 sacks allowed placed him 22d among starters at his position. But this preseason, the Cowboys' line led the NFL in fewest sacks allowed (through three games), and the starting right side - massive guard Leonard Davis, who is 6-foot-6 and 353 pounds, and long-armed tackle Marc Colombo, 6-8 and 318 - cleared paths for the Cowboys' talented running backs. In an exhibition against Tennessee, running backs Marion Barber and Felix Jones scooted over the goal line for 1-yard touchdowns (Jones to the right), and Romo wasn't sacked.
Can New York's offensive line keep its hot hand? In 2008, the Giants led the NFL in rushing yards with 2,518 and yards per carry with 5.0, both franchise records. Brandon Jacobs, with 1,089 yards, and Derrick Ward, with 1,025, became the fourth pair of running-back teammates to rush for 1,000 yards in the same season. The Giants allowed 28 sacks, the fifth fewest in the NFC, and were paced by Pro Bowl right guard Chris Snee, charged with just one sack all season. All five offensive-line starters behind those stats return for 2009. But watch out if this tight-knit unit frays. Right tackle Kareem McKenzie is nursing a bad back; Snee and starting left guard Rich Seubert were banged up in training camp and held out of a 17-3 preseason loss to Chicago. In that game, the Giants' offense didn't score and the Bears sacked Giants quarterbacks five times.
Washington may be headed for trouble if left tackle Chris Samuels, a perennial Pro Bowl selection, can't stay healthy. The 6-5, 317-pound Samuels - whose run-blocking helped Clinton Portis rank as the NFL's fourth-leading rusher last season with 1,487 yards - has been the only bright spot on a porous line that in 2008 was the worst among NFC East teams in preventing sacks. The 8-8 Skins were 1-3 in the final four games, which Samuels missed with a triceps tear, and a sore right knee throughout this preseason (he had off-season surgery on it) has kept coaches worrying. If Samuels can't protect quarterback Jason Campbell's blind side and clear lanes for Portis, Washington will need to shuffle. That might mean sending Stephon Heyer, who just won the job of replacing Jon Jansen at right tackle, back to the left side and promoting a reserve to start at right tackle, adding more questions than answers for venerable offensive-line coach Joe Bugel.
- Don Steinberg