Football is a very physical game, and due to this nature injuries are a common occurrence in the sport. With the new CBA of 2011, training camps and offseason programs are supposed to be easier on the players, thus allowing for a higher probability to get them to the season opener healthy. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, the injury bug that was with the team during the 2012 season, seems to still be hanging around this season as well. With the numerous guys that have already gone down with injury, I want to focus today on two guys that sympathy should be in short supply for.
Nate Livings (31) (5yrs/$18.75 million) and MacKenzy Bernadeau (27) (4yrs/$11 million) were signed by the Cowboys during the free agency period of 2012. These two individuals were signed to good contracts, with the idea they would be manning the guard spots for the next few years, at the least. Sadly, both players were on the injured list early on in camp, and did not return until the beginning of the regular season. Due to this lack of time together in camp and the preseason, this group was never able to gain any type of cohesiveness that an offensive line needs to have to be successful in the NFL.
As we fast forward another 12 months into July 2013, unfortunately, these two players are out again indefinitely. These guys didn’t get hurt due to contact, but rather doing basic drills NFL caliber athletes should be able to perform on the first evening of camp. While Travis Frederick is certainly an upgrade in the middle of the line, he alone won’t solve all of the issues. As fans and experts alike saw how atrocious the line play was last season, the time has come for the team to move forward with a youth movement on the offensive line. It’s time to get a group that can play in camp together, and build continuity during the preseason, so that success can be had once the regular season begins.
The interior of the line is where this movement needs to occur. Tyron Smith looks to be a fixture for the next decade, and Doug Free on the right side has shown improvement from last season, early in camp. The team needs to take a look and go with some combination of the following:
Phil Costa (26) (G/C)
Travis Frederick (22) (G/C)
Ryan Cook (30) (G/C)
Kevin Kowalski (24) (G/C)
David Arkin (25) (G)
Ray Dominguez (25) (G)
Ron Leary’s (24) status is undetermined as well, and depending on the length of time he is out, he could be a factor in this situation also. The team needs to demonstrate unless you’re a star on this team, if you don’t come into camp in shape, your spot/place on the team can be taken or changed. With the money today’s players are being paid, if their standing on a team can be placed in jeopardy, this would be a good step in getting the culture right on the team. Once Livings and Bernadeau return, they should be relegated to third team, until they can move up the depth chart, or an injury occurs. In Livings’ case, with the way his contract is set-up, he may be out of a job come early-September, if other players step up in the next 45 days.
Follow Craig Cortemeglia on Twitter at @ccortemegliaTLH