When the Cowboys finished the 2011 regular season, there were two areas of position Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett knew they had to repair if they wanted to be considered as playoff calibar contenders, not only in the NFC East, but in the NFL as well.
One of course was the secondary, where coaches Dave Campo and Brett Maxie were replaced by new defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson, and secondary assistant Joe Baker. Of course cornerback Terence Newman was released, and free agent strong safety Abram Elam wasn’t resigned. They will be replaced by free agent cornerback Brandon Carr, first round draft pick ( 6th overall ) cornerback Morris Claiborne, free agent safety Brodney Pool, and 4th round pick safety Matt Johnson.
Carr and Claiborne will be the starting cornerbacks, Gerald Sensabaugh will be returning to strong safety ( where he started all 16 games at free safety in 2011 ), and Pool and Johnson will battle it out for the open free safety spot.
Talk about a facelift. The Cowboys will definitely have a new look in the secondary, but what about the offensive line ?
Let’s start with how the Offensive line looked in 2011 first of all :
2011 First round pick ( 9th overall ) Tyron Smith started 16 games at Right Tackle
5th year veteran Doug Free started all 16 games at Left Tackle
10th year veteran Kyle Kosier ( now released ) started all 16 games at Right Guard
2nd year veteran Phil Costa started all 16 games at Center
And then there was a changing of the guard at Left Guard :
2011 6th round pick Bill Nagy started 4 games before breaking his ankle at New England, and placed on injured reserve
2011 free agent pickup Derrick Dockery ( not resigned ) started 2 games
Released and resigned Montrae Holland ( not resigned ) started 10 games
2011 rookie free agent center/guard Kevin Kowalski played 114 snaps with 0 starts
As soon as the 2012 offseason began, Offensive Line coach Hudson Houck retired. And in comes former N.Y. Jets Offensive line and assistant head coach Bill Callahan, who will take over as Offensive Line coach and Offensive Coordinator.
Callahan was handed the duties to place 5 players on the field that can protect the quarterback in passing situations, and open up the holes to form running lanes for the running backs. A simple chore ? Not exactly.
There will be plenty of work and competition once training camp begins. Smith and Free will be switching sides at the tackles. This will be Smith’s first campain at left tackle, while Free showed promise when he started 7 games in 2009 at right tackle when he replaced Marc Columbo after Columbo had suffered a broken leg.
When free agency started in March, Dallas was quick to sign free agent guards Nate Livings ( Bengals ) and Mackenzy Bernadeau ( Panthers ). And even though the Cowboys failed to address any players in the draft in April, Jerry Jones was beside himself, and couldn’t hold back in his press conference following the draft that they had reached an agreement with rookie free agent guard, Ron Leary, whom the scouting and coaching department had rated as high as a 3rd round pick on their draft board. Leary, who was a starter for 4 years at Memphis, fell off of many team’s draft boards due to a degenerative knee problem. But after being checked out by the team’s doctor, the Boys couldn’t help themselves by taking a chance on him.
As it stands, Livings will most likely be starting beside Smith at Left Guard, Bernadeau has been held out of OTA’s and mini camp due to hip surgery he had in early May that will sideline him for 10 to 12 weeks. Leary has been practicing with the first team at right guard, and has been impressing the coaching staff during the drills. Even though the contacts were light, The pads haven’t came on yet.
Center will be a 3-4 way battle as Costa will be battling Kowalski, Nagy, and possibly Bernadeau when training camp begins.
Other notable players that will be fighting for a roster spot next month will be 2011’s swing tackle Jermey Parnell, 2011 draft pick guard David Arkin, former Cowboys 2006 7th round draft pick OT Pat McQuistan ( recently resigned ), and rookie free agents OT’s Jeff Adams ( Columbia ), Levy Adcock ( Oklahoma State ), Tyrone Novikoff ( Idaho ), and Guard Harland Gunn ( Miami ).
In my honest opinion, when the dust finally settles and the season begins, the Cowboys will most likely carry 9-10 offensive lineman on the 53 man roster, the starting lineup will be : ( LT ) Smith ( LG ) Livings ( C ) Costa ( RG ) Leary ( RT ) Free … and your depth ( Swing Tackle ) Parnell ( Swing Guard ) Bernadeau ( 2nd string Center ) Kowalski ( Swing Guard/Center ) Nagy.
Regardless how the cards fall, just like the secondary, you are going to see some new faces as the coaching staff finally seals this offensive line once and for all. Well at least we hope anyway.