Jun 12, 2012; Irving, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys tackle Tyron Smith (77) talks with Doug Free (68) during minicamp at Dallas Cowboys headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

The Big 5: The Dallas Cowboys' 2012 Starting Offensive Line

Without a doubt one of the most crucial pieces that will determine the success of the Dallas Cowboys in 2012 will be the offensive line. These guys are rarely put in the spotlight and yet they are a big part of what makes the offense, and the entire team for that matter, tick. Without a solid group in the trenches, all of these breakout performers and potential studs everyone are talking about will be a bust. What I’m really trying to say is all of these fast, explosive players put their seasons on the hefty backs of five guys up front.

So who is going to be the starting offensive line in 2012? As I’ve said time and time again, this is purely speculation on my part. I can tell you what I think will happen based on my perceptions of where the roster is now and how they’ve performed to date, but in the end this all hinges on what happens next. Last time I checked, I’m not a psychic, and I don’t imagine any of the rest of you are either. So let’s have a little fun, and feel free to comment below and tell Cowboy Nation what you think.

Left Tackle

November 20, 2011; Landover, MD, USA; Dallas Cowboys tackle Tyron Smith (77) lines up against Washington Redskins defensive end Adam Carriker (94) at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE

This one is a no-brainer. We all know that Tyron Smith will be the starting left tackle in 2012. It sounds odd to say, considering he’s only in his second season, but I think he deserves the promotion. He can now be considered the premiere offensive lineman on the Cowboys’ roster. He seems to be catching on in a big way, and looks to be a force in 2012 and beyond.

What I really like about him is his ability to learn fast, and play well even through injury. It looked like last year he might be sidelined with a knee injury early on, but he played through it and performed admirably.

Right Tackle

If Tyron Smith is going to be the starter on the left side then it’s no surprise Doug Free will be starting on the right side.

Free looked a little out matched at times last season so this move back to the right side is a welcomed one in my eyes. I hope that this change of scenery will bring back the Free of two years ago. I keep going back to the last time the Cowboys won a playoff game. Felix Jones broke off a huge 49-yard touchdown run against the Eagles, and Free came all the way across the field to get into the secondary and pave the way. If you don’t remember that glorious day follow this link to jog your memory.

Left Guard

I don’t completely agree with this one, but from what I see Nate Livings is going to start the season as the starting left tackle. After signing a five-year, $19 million contract it would be crazy not to start him. Jerry Jones paid so much to a guy that has been inconsistent throughout his entire career. We’ll see what happens when week one comes around.

One guy to keep your eye on is David Arkin. I think as he gets some more time in the weight room with Mike Woicik, and shows his versatility in training camp, he’ll be pushing for either starting guard position.

Right Guard

At this point in the offseason I suspect the starter at the right guard position will be Mackenzy Bernadeau. Of course this all hinges on how quickly he can recover from hip surgery. If he does not get back to form in time for the opener, look for second-year player Bill Nagy or David Arkin to take advantage of the opportunity and fill the void. Both players are athletic and able to move well. This will be an asset when the right guard is called on to pull and get out in front of defenders.

Center

Dec. 4, 2011; Glendale, AZ, USA; Dallas Cowboys center (67) Phil Costa against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

The center is the hardest of the five position to call. It could be Phil Costa or maybe even Kevin Kowalski. Who really knows? If Costa can get over his aptitude to hike the ball 25 yards behind Tony Romo, then he might just be serviceable. In the end he’ll probably beat out Kowalski for the sake of building a relationship with Romo.

As I said before, it’s anyone’s guess what combination of five guys will start the season in the trenches. If you don’t think I’m anywhere close on my prediction, feel free to comment below.

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Tags: Bill Nagy Dallas Cowboys David Arkin Doug Free Kevin Kowalski Mackenzy Bernadeau Mike Woicik NFL Phil Costa Tyron Smith

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