Cowboys facing glaring holes in offensive line

In their third week of training camp in sunny Oxnard, Calif., it suddenly dawned on the Dallas Cowboys they could use a starting right guard. They may have stumbled into a starter at left guard with undrafted Ron Leary, but their collection of retreads don’t offer many other options.

And that’s what led the Cowboys to sign former Jets guard Brandon “Buttfumble” Moore off the couch at age 33. It’s baffling how the Cowboys would talk so much about building around Tony Romo and then fail to fix the interior of their offensive line. And even taking a flyer on Moore quickly blew up in the Cowboys’ faces.

Moore informed the team Wednesday that he couldn’t bring himself to leave his family and fly to training camp.

“I was wrestling with it all day, going back and forth with my wife and family,” Moore told “Finally, we decided, ‘Let’s go ahead and do it.’ I didn’t sleep at all. I was wrestling with it. I realized it was too late in the game to uproot my family. I called my agent and said, ‘I can’t do it.'”

It should’ve never come to this. Someone in the Cowboys’ pro personnel department should be held accountable for what happened during the free agency period of 2012. The Cowboys gave Nate Livings a five-year, $18.7 million deal and then turned around and gave Mackenzy Bernadeau 4 years, $11 million. Bernadeau had already lost his starting job with the Panthers when the Cowboys decided to sign him. He had shoulder surgery in the offseason and is now trying to return from a strained hamstring.

The Cowboys thought Livings, recovering from knee surgery, and Bernadeau could hold down the guard spots for at least two or three years. Now, there’s a decent chance neither player will be on the field this season.

It’s just another version of Jerry Jones’ shell game. He wants to point toward added responsibilities for Romo and a new playcaller on offense, but he doesn’t address other glaring issues. The Cowboys have drafted Tyron Smith and now Travis Frederick in the first round over the past three years to help rebuild the offensive line. But they don’t seem capable of finishing the job. So the Cowboys have a quality stable of running backs, wide receivers and tight ends. But they can’t plug the leak up the middle.

Frederick should certainly be an upgrade at center, but he’s also being asked to work at guard. Every scout who’s watched him at guard doesn’t think he has the footwork or quickness to make that happen.

The team also has issues along the defensive line. News broke Wednesday that Cowboys defensive tackle Jay Ratliff would not participate in any practices while the team is in California. Ratliff tweaked a hamstring during the conditioning test at the start of camp and has missed every session since.

The Cowboys have already lost the versatile Tyrone Crawford for the year with a ruptured Achilles. And starting defensive end Anthony Spencer is recovering from arthroscopic surgery. There’s a good chance the Cowboys won’t have Ratliff or Spencer until opening week against the Giants. It’s hard to believe Jones was bragging after the draft about the club’s depth in the defensive line.

He continues to believe the Cowboys will have a much better chance of making the playoffs because of all the takeaways they’ll have in Monte Kiffin’s famed “Tampa 2” defense. But DeMarcus Ware isn’t going to create havoc every down on his own. The Cowboys need to collapse the pocket. That will be hard to do if Ratliff is once again plagued by injuries throughout the season. And 30-year-old Jason Hatcher has to come off the field at some point.

The Cowboys had superstars on offense during the 90s Super Bowl runs. But they also had great players on the offensive and defensive lines. The current Cowboys say the right things about winning up front, but that doesn’t mean they’ve solved their problems.

They will likely start the 2013 season with a mystery guest at right guard. Is that any way to approach a season after spending an enormous amount of money on Romo?

The Cowboys have a rare talent in Dez Bryant and a potentially dominating back in DeMarco Murray. But the season could once again be undermined by poor play along the offensive line.

The Cowboys haven’t been able to build anything impressive over the past 17 years because they don’t know how to lay the foundation. And it doesn’t appear that help’s on the way.