Dallas Cowboys Camp Battles: Phil Costa Should Start at Center

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Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett has said the five best players will start on his offensive line. Camp will tell for sure, but given what we know of the roster there’s every reason to believe the Cowboys’ best O line includes both Phil Costa and Travis Frederick. Consider the following:

Guard is where the Cowboys need change: The priority in the 2013 draft was to upgrade the interior of the offensive line. Injuries forced journeyman Ryan Cook into starting duty and he was serviceable at center, but the guard play was a problem. Guard was the obvious target for upgrading in the draft. And then an unprecedented first-round run on big men forced the Dallas war room to rethink things: Either abandon their board and use the 18th pick on the best O lineman left, trade down for an extra pick and help the O line with less premium picks than they would’ve liked, or change priorities and buttress some other position with their pick at 18.

Jul 22, 2013; Oxnard, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys center Kevin Kowalski (60), center Phil Costa (67) and guard David Arkin (62) on the field for training camp at the River Ridge Fields. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

We all know what happened. Love it or hate it, what resulted was an extra third-round pick and Travis Frederick – an interior lineman with guard-center position flex who had a productive college career and, by all accounts, is incredibly strong, exceedingly smart, and delightfully nasty.

If the Wisconsin product is the player the Cowboys war room thinks he is, he should be able to outplay Mackenzy Bernadeau or Nate Livings for a starting guard spot. Camp will tell. But the position of need entering this offseason was guard, not center. So plant that cheese-eating road grader left or right of center and let’s see what we got.

Costa is far more promising at center than Bernadeau or Livings are at guard: According to some scouting reports, Costa’s strengths play well to offensive coordinator Bill Callahan’s zone blocking scheme. And though still a young player, Costa has a veteran’s grasp of the center’s assignments. He’s also an acknowledged leader among the linemen. And don’t forget: Two years ago, Costa’s play as a second-year undrafted free agent helped make a camp casualty out of five-time pro bowler Andre Gurode. The man known to his teammates as Bulldog has got some game, and this system fits it.

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