Coach’s Corner: Marc Colombo Former Starting Right Tackle Relishes Teaching Technique to Young Linemen
Former Cowboys’ starting right tackle Marc Colombo enters his fourth season as an assistant coach on Jason Garrett’s staff. Colombo played six seasons for Dallas and knows this offense like the back of his hand, but this season will be different because he’ll be assisting new Cowboys’ offensive line coach Paul Alexander.
Colombo took time from his duties as assistant offensive line coach to go one-on-one with 5 Points Blue and share his thoughts about working at minicamp with his new young offensive linemen as well as the new offensive line coach.
Q: How does a coach go about preparing young offensive linemen for the season when these practices at minicamp are non-contact and no-pads? If there is no hitting or contact allowed, how are you able to assess good line play?
COLOMBO: You’re watching how they work. You treat them like professionals, see how they study and how they learn. That’s the most important thing. The pad stuff? That will come — as will the strength and moving off the ball — when we get to Training Camp. But for now, what about the offensive and defensive line? We’re moving full-speed.
Q: The work in the offseason and minicamp must be very different from when you entered the NFL as the Chicago Bears’ 1st-round draft pick in 2002. Was there a bigger emphasis on the physical aspect of the offseason work?
COLOMBO: When I came into the league, it was more heavy lifting in the weight room, less on-the-field work in OTAs, working your way up to minicamp and training camp. But now, I think it’s important that young guys get out there mentally and be prepared for training camp in July. From a coach’s standpoint, I can get an idea of their work ethic and ho quickly they’re picking up on things we’ve taught them because we go pretty hard. We also work on technique.
Technique is everything. Things like footwork, things like working next to the guy you’re going to be working with on the field. For instance, rookie left guard Connor Williams is going to be lined-up up next to center Travis Frederick. We want those two guys getting in-sync with each other so that when we come full-speed, full-contact during the games, they’ve already done it a million times.
Q: Can you elaborate more on specific “technique” that you teach? I think Cowboys fans hear the term “technique” a lot, but what exactly does it mean in regards to an offensive lineman?
COLOMBO: We like to work ‘aiming points’ on a defender. We like to run the wide zone here, so we have an aiming point and it’s are a certain amount of steps. It’s three steps to a target, there’s your aiming point, and then a track to the linebacker.
It’s all about practice repetitions. It’s hundreds and hundreds of reps so they do it perfectly every single time so they don’t have to worry about it anymore. It’s all a system in everything we do.
Another example is footwork. Footwork is a system. Footwork is always the same. That’s what makes decent offensive lines ‘okay’ and really good offensive lines, like we have, consistently good. We really harp on the footwork to make sure it’s consistent every time. Inconsistency is where you create hole on the offensive line. We, as coaches, spend this time in minicamp and OTAs trying to make our line cohesive so they can work together.
Q: How have you personally enjoyed the change that comes when you work with a new coach? You assisted Frank Pollack the past two seasons, but now you are working with new offensive line coach Paul Alexander. Paul is a long-tenured NFL coach from his years with the Bengals, but this is his first season in Dallas.
COLOMBO: Paul is great. It’s good, I’m getting a wealth of knowledge and I’m learning from really good coaches. I’m still young in terms of my coaching career, he’s an experienced coach, so I’m learning a lot form him. In turn, I can teach him kind of how we’ve done it here, which is good. We can learn from each other.
Q: As a former offensive tackle, you know how important it is for the tackle to work side-by-side with the tight end. You lined up next to Jason Witten for nearly every play of your six seasons as the Cowboys’ starting right tackle. Now that Witten and his veteran backup, James Hanna, have both retired, there’s a whole new group of young tight ends that have a steep learning curve ahead of them. What do you think of our tight end depth chart?
COLOMBO: We’ve got great young tight ends and a great new tight ends coach, Doug Nussmeier. He’s doing a great job with those guys.
Geoff Swaim has been really good. The rookie, Schultz, has been doing well. Right now, the tight ends are sort of “by committee” with Geoff taking the reins. Then you’ve got Blake Jarwin, a second-year tight end, who has a lot of ability – especially as a receiver. Then you’ve got Rico Gathers coming along.
I think it’s a pretty strong group. It’s never going to replace Witten. He’s the best tight end of all time and, obviously, you’re going to miss his consistency and his leadership. He always knew what to do on the field. Offensive tackles loved working with Witten. I played with him for years. But. hopefully, with our new group, we can get similar production for the full group of guys.
Q: Tell us more about Blake Jarwin. During OTAs, and even dating back to last season when he spent the first part of the year on the practice squad, I heard really positive things about Jarwin. This is a kid who began his college career at Oklahoma State as a wide receiver before switching to tight end.
COLOMBO: I think he’s learning how to run block, and he’s willing. He’s in here studying. He works really, really hard in knowing his blocking assignments and what to do. He’s been working in the weight room, getting bigger and stronger, so that part of his game is going to get better. The receiving part of his game is really exciting. He’s a great route-runner.
Coach Nussmeier and Coach Linehan love him as far as running routes. You could see it out there today. He’s incredible out there. He’s going to be exciting because he’s a matchup problem for the defense.