Draft Needs: Cowboys Good At Guard With Mackenzy Bernadeau

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Sep 22, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys tackle Doug Free (68) guard Mackenzy Bernadeau (73) center Travis Frederick (72) guard Ronald Leary (65) and tackle Tyron Smith (77) in the huddle during the game against the St. Louis Rams at AT&T Stadium. The Dallas Cowboys beat the St. Louis Rams 31-7.Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

With strong play from Bernadeau, and Tyron Smith as PFF’s fifth-ranked left tackle, and Free the fifth-ranked right tackle, and Frederick the seventh-ranked center, it’s easy to see how the Dallas offensive line grew in esteem as the season progressed. Bernadeau wasn’t simply along for the ride. Here’s a game-by-game breakdown of his second-half grades:

@NO 0.73.65
@WAS -2.8-1.4-4

Bernadeau’s 2012 season was a disappointment. But remember he missed the entire offseason program after surgeries on his hip and knee. And then in 2013, he opened camp on the physically unable to perform list following shoulder surgery. Even though he enjoyed good health his first four years in the league with Carolina, during his two-year tenure in Dallas he’s never been quite right physically – until the second half of 2013. Bernadeau was finally healthy and fully acclimated to offensive line coach Bill Callahan’s zone blocking scheme. For the first time in his Cowboys career, we got to see what he could do. Your eyes weren’t lying – he was good.

The 6’4”, 330-pound guard will be 28 years old this season, and will count less than $3 million against the cap in 2014 and again in 2015. Bernadeau took a paycut in March, shaving about $1.1 million off his 2014 cap figure without pushing it into future seasons. Credit where credit is due: Bernadeau is in his prime production years and he’s playing like it. GM Jerry Jones still managed to cut his pay and has him under contract until he turns 30.

To what can we attribute Bernadeau’s improved play? Is it because he’s finally healthy? Is it because he’s mastered the scheme? Is it because he’s playing next to Fredbeard? Is it the effect of Waters’ mentoring? Well, who cares? None of that’s changing in 2014, assuming he avoids injury. Try not to be too disappointed if the Cowboys don’t draft a stud right guard next week. If the last eight games are any indication, the Cowboys already have one in Mackenzy Bernadeau.

The much older, more costly, and more erratic Doug Free will be a free agent in 2015. I’m all on board with spending premium draft assets on the offensive line. The team should certainly lock up a premium guard if one falls to them. And regardless of what tight end Gavin Escobar might develop into, I’ll likely still daydream about how sexy Detroit guard Larry Warford would look with a star on his helmet. A great line makes every skill position player better. But if the Cowboys are ranking needs for next week’s draft, they should look at tackle before selecting a guard.

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Tags: Dallas Cowboys Mackenzy Bernadeau

  • Scott.

    I’ll let old frog have at it.

  • SmartThinking

    Your numbers are not only misleading, they fail to address the weakest link in the O line’s failure to establish himself along the line or garner any respect from his fellow linesmen. Additionally, he had his job taken away from him by a 34 year old man who had been out of the game over 14 months. The only, and I repeat, only way Bearnadeau got back on the field last year was due in full to Waters’ career-ending injury.

    In all the games he played in, Romo continually drove the ball away from Bearnadeau’s side if the field because he doesn’t trust him.

    If this O line is to become any better than second class line, both guards, yes, both guards must be replaced with much better, significantly more mobile players or this offense will never achieve elite status.

    Big Jones brought Linehan in this year to spiff up the offense. Pay attention to the play of both guards this coming season and you’ll see that the only thing keeping Romo from being crushed repeatedly from the inside won’t be the play of these guards. It’ll be pure luck because every defensive lineman in the league knows they can’t hold up to the pressure.

    • John

      Why are the numbers misleading? Because they don’t support your dogma? Mack was a good player last year. His emergence gives the Cowboys a little flexibility in this draft.

      • SmartThinking

        There’s no dogma here, bub. Just my opinion as a Cowboys viewer for longer than you’ve been alive. So let’s take your argument and blow it up point at a time, shall we? 1. B is versatile — he has to be. He can’t even cement his own position. If he didn’t show some ability at every position, he’d have been cut last year. 2. He was a good player last year — No. Waters was a good player last year. B lost his job to a “real” OG and wouldn’t have seen a down if Waters hadn’t been injured. 3. His emergence– he didn’t “emerge” from anything. Romo intentionally led the ball to the weak side of the field the majority of every game to avoid his collapsing position. Incidentally, so did Murray. The only thing B did was be lucky that more defenses didn’t run down his throat. They didn’t have to either because they, pretty much ran anywhere they wanted.

        Finally, if you do real reporting and ask the Cowboys management what their view is of the line, they’ll tell you, just as I did when I checked my sources months ago, that the weaknesses on this team’s offense are at both guards and, until those positions are strengthened, so the entire offense can achieve more, just as Linehan was brought in to do, this team will not achieve elite status.

  • PaulTX

    I believe Bernie is our back up Center, so I am all for keeping him around, but I cannot support not drafting another Guard. How many hits do you think Romo can take? My bet is not many. You need to protect your most valuable asset, and being that starting Guards can be had in the 2nd and 3rd round, I do not see why we are satisfied with “average”.

    • John

      Good analysis, but “not drafting another guard” is not the point. Drafting O line is important every year, but Mack’s play when healthy suggests the position isn’t a dire, Day 1 need. He was considerably above average in the second half of 2013, blocking for an offense that scored the 5th most points in the league and sent a running back to the Pro Bowl. His play, assuming it’s sustainable, frees up the team to use premium draft assets on positions of more pressing need, should they choose. The ‘Boys can’t ignore guard in this draft, but Mack’s play affords them a little flexibility in their draft strategy.

      • PaulTX

        Ideally, I’d rather grab a Tackle to replace Free. He’s a $7 million hit in 2015.

        • John

          Mack’s improved play is huge in this regard. Free is actually a free agent in 2015, a result of the paycut he took last year. Unless Parnell or Weems can take over in 2015, the Cowboys need to draft Free’s replacement either this year or next.

          • PaulTX

            Parnell and Weems have seemed to reach there peak. Lewan or Martin should be there at #16. I was sort of hoping for Barr or Pryor, but an OT would be great too.

  • David

    Bernie had a pretty good year as well as did Leary but tell me exactly who is their depth behind them that is any good. They need to draft O-lineman every year. Thats what good teams do. If you draft well then there is no need for desperation in FA.

    • John

      Good points. By all means, pile up talented O linemen every year. A great O line makes every skill position player better. Mack’s elevated play suggests the Cowboys aren’t forced to find an impact Day 1 starter at guard in the 2014 draft. Which is good, because they have plenty of other severe needs to address.

  • californy

    I dont need these article to tell me what I saw. The sad thing if Dallas select a OG in the draft, it to replace Berny and not the weak link on the team Leary.

    • John

      Any guard they may draft will push both Leary and Mack. Mack played better in 2013 but is no long-term solution, and Leary is young and can still improve following a rough first year as starter. both have cuttable contracts and neither has any real job security. Garrett is all about competition and earning your spot every day – the two best guards on the roster are going to play… If that’s Leary and Mack, then last year suggests the line will be pretty good.