Ever since the departure of the aging pro bowl center, Andre Gurode, the Cowboys have struggled in finding his replacement. Despite being elected to 5 Pro Bowls and 2 All-Pro teams, Gurode still had his faults. One of his biggest drawbacks was his tendency to suddenly snap the ball when Romo was not expecting it. As his play declined with age, Gurode would leave the Cowboys in the 2011 season.
In comes Phil Costa, an undrafted offensive lineman. Costa would impress the Cowboy’s coaching staff, and would make the roster as a backup center. When Gurode left, Costa took over the center position for the 2011 season.
Dec. 4, 2011; Glendale, AZ, USA; Dallas Cowboys center (67) Phil Costa against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Costa played poorly. This was most notable during week 3, against the Washington Redskins. While playing at home on national television, Costa had 4 errant snaps. The Cowboys would win the game, but he faced heavy criticism for his poor play. Like Guroda, he would struggle with snapping the ball too early and would make life harder on Tony Romo.
Costa also got pushed back a lot against opponents defensive tackles and struggled in pass protection. Despite his struggles, he would keep the starting job for the rest of the 2011 season. In 2012, he was penciled in as the starter but was hurt for most of the year.
Then came the 2013 NFL draft. With the 31st pick in the draft, the Cowboys selected center, Travis Frederick. Frederick is expected to come in and take over the center position. For a casual fan, this does not look good for Costa. However in reality, this could be a great opportunity that Costa can take advantage of.
Center was a position of weakness in 2012. Along with that, right guard Mackenzy Bernadeau, struggled this year as well. Unlike the center position, the Cowboys did not bring in any new faces to fix the right guard position.
This is where Costa comes in. For most of his football career, Costa played guard. Center is a bit of an unnatural position for him, which explains his struggle with snapping the ball.
One thing that Costa does well though, is run blocking. The singular game Costa played in 2012 shows this. Against Baltimore, the Cowboys had their highest rushing total that season with 227 yards! The Raven’s run defense was poor this year, but that is still a very impressive total.
When I watch Costa play, I see a small offensive lineman. He is measure in at 6-2, 313lbs. He gets pushed back often due to his smaller size. However, Costa makes up for this with his quickness. For an offensive lineman, he is very mobile. He can get to the second level quickly when run blocking. This makes him a great fit at right guard.
Costa is the perfect lineman when you want to utilize a pulling guard, traps, or screens. His mobility as a lineman is much more useful as a guard than a center. Also by converting him to a guard, this takes away his snapping responsibilities and totally eliminates a weakness of his. Costa would still struggle with pass protection, but he would bring more to the table as a right guard than he would as a center overall.
With Frederick coming to Dallas, this could really salvage Costa’s career. It will be a challenge for Costa since he has to win the starting position, but there is nothing wrong with some competition. If he can make the most of this opportunity, the draft of Frederick would benefit the Cowboys by fixing two spots on the Cowboys’ O-Line.