“Life is about opportunity,” according to Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett. “Life is about creating opportunities and taking advantage of opportunities. That’s what it is in all walks of life; no different in the National Football League.”
Former undrafted free agent Ronald Leary had taken a choke hold on the opportunity to start for the Cowboys at left guard this season, but arthroscopic knee surgery has sidelined the second-year player until at least the regular season opener against the New York Giants.
Funny enough, Leary’s opportunity materialized as the result of knee issues for returning starter Nate Livings, who has yet to play a snap in preseason. To add further oddity, Kevin Kowalski looked to compete for that same opportunity, showing promise early in camp, but hasn’t played in two weeks because of his own knee problems.
And that brings us to the two healthiest knees on the Cowboys roster, belonging to third-year guard David Arkin. Arkin will get the start at left guard this weekend against the Arizona Cardinals. He’ll be starting by default: God, the universe, karma – pick your poison – has laid waste to many a knee to place this opportunity before Arkin.
An apparently adamantium-jointed four-time All-Conference selection at tiny Missouri State, the 2011 fourth-round draft pick was a developmental project for a Cowboys team hoping to grow some offensive line talent from within the organization.
They might start by cloning Arkin’s knees – he hasn’t missed a game to injury since his freshman year in high school. At 6’5” and 310 pounds, the 25-year old seems to have all the right physical characteristics of an NFL guard. Garrett talked at his Thursday press conference about Arkin’s development:
“Ark’s done a good job. He’s grown each of the years he’s been with us. He works very hard at it. He has some position flex inside ‘cause he’s played so many different spots. Right side, left side; he’s played some center for us as well. He’s working hard, trying to get better, and he’s the kind of guy that you want because it’s very important to him.”
Arkin’s development is in some ways tied to this head coach. Two important ways a head coach can impact an organization are by evaluating draft talent and developing young players. Arkin was the fourth overall draft choice of the Jason Garrett era. The first three picks were LT Tyron Smith, ILB Bruce Carter, and RB Demarco Murray.