How He Fits in Dallas: OL E.J. Whitley

After filling other needs in earlier rounds, the Cowboys are making a late push to shore up their offensive line. Their most recent pick is Texas Tech offensive lineman E.J. Whitley (6-6, 293).

OL E.J. Whitley Profile

Where Whitley will play as a professional remains to be seen. In college, he was a very effective offensive tackle, using his size and long wingspan to provide considerable protection for the Tech quarterbacks.

One of the quirks of Tech head coach Mike Leach's offense, aside from the fact that the Red Raiders seemingly throw the ball on nearly every play, is that the Tech offensive line sometimes lines up with very wide splits, often with three to five yards between blockers. Because of that formation, Whitley and the rest of the Tech linemen have to be able to cover a lot of ground to prevent pass rushers from shooting through the gaps.

A three-year starter in Lubbock, Whitley is more big than strong. While he has benefited from his extremely long reach, his max squat of 545 pounds and max bench press of 375 pounds are not jaw-dropping numbers for linemen, meaning Whitley is more of a finesse blocker than an overpowering mauler.

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At the combine, he ran a 5.38 in the 40-yard dash, and did just 16 reps in the 225-pound bench, leaving him with a relatively average initial punch on pass rushers. To succeed in the NFL, he will have to get much stronger, especially in his upper body.

But Whitley is very smart and has superior blocking technique. Despite his height and length, he plays with good leverage and angles, although he sometimes plays too upright, which allows pass rushers to bull-rush him when he gets back on his heels. In addition to increasing his strength, Whitley needs to play with more intensity, more of a mean streak. He doesn't always punish defenders, but his intelligence gives him a good understanding of blocking schemes, and he's very good at helping out teammates after taking his man out of the play.

There is no question that Whitley is not being brought to Dallas to start.

Flozell Adams is expected to return from the knee injury that ended his 2005 season prematurely, and Jason Fabini was signed to man the right tackle spot. Physically and mentally, Whitley somewhat resembles Fabini when he was drafted out of the University of Cincinnati – Fabini also was a tall, relatively lanky tackle coming out of school, but he was able to add the necessary strength and developed into one of Bill Parcells' favorite linemen.

Rob Petitti, a rookie in 2005, filled the right tackle spot in his debut campaign, but will give way this season to Fabini, meaning Whitley likely is earmarked to remain on his familiar left side, backing up Adams. He will benefit greatly from absorbing everything Adams and Fabini do and say, and his chance to make the roster will increase significantly with added strength.

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