Both lines for the Cowboys will be fine in fact, despite concerns many have with both. We all know that continuity was difficult to achieve on the offensive line last year with new players signed that immediately missed playing time in training camp, along with some of the existing linemen. As it played out during the season, the offensive line was one of the biggest liabilities for this team, with the result being Tony Romo running for his life all season and a below average running game.
May 10, 2013; Irving, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys guard Micah James (67) center Travis Frederick (70) guard Ronald Leary (65) and guard D. J. Hall (63) listen to offensive line coach Bill Callahan during rookie minicamp at Dallas Cowboys Headquarters in Irving, TX. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
So, as the Cowboys prepare for the 2013 season, some are expressing concern that, once again, starters on the offensive line are rehabbing injuries. And I would be concerned about that too, if I really thought these players really were going to be the starters. It appears to me though that there will be a change of guard (pun fully intended) on the offensive line. From what I am reading and hearing from the mini-camp held just last week, I fully expect Ronald Leary to be the starter at left guard.
There is no doubt in my mind that Travis Frederick will be the new center for this team and his intelligence will make as much of a difference as his physical ability. As a result, we can expect to see fewer mistakes when blocking adjustments are made by the line. Tyron Smith will be better at left tackle, with a year of experience under his belt at that position. Then, Leary at left guard will be an upgrade over Nate Livings. At right guard will Mackenzy Bernadeau make the cut, or will there be someone new at the position?
There is the possibility that Phil Costa moves to right guard, or that Kevin Kowalski seizes the day and secures the spot. Kowalski has been the one to work that position in mini-camp and definitely has the opportunity to show he’s ready. At right tackle the Cowboys had a somewhat messy situation in the second half of last season, with the rotation by series of Doug Free and Jermy Parnell at the position. It did work better than going with Free 100 percent. Maybe it’s time for Parnell to make take the other half away from Free.
Nov 18, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne (24) – defensive end Anthony Spencer (93) – linebacker DeMarcus Ware (94) – defensive tackle Jason Hatcher (97) – linebacker Bruce Carter (54) – nose tackle Jay Ratliff (90) and cornerback Brandon Carr (39) on the line of scrimmage before a play during the game against the Cleveland Browns at Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys beat the Browns 23-20 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
On the defensive line, there has been much angst expressed over the Cowboys not drafting any defensive linemen, as well as little activity in free agency to secure players for these spots. But we can be assured that if defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli say they like what they have already, they are good to go with what they have. During mini-camp, Jason Hatcher and Jay Ratliff both received work at number one and three defensive tackle positions. I’m not sure if it means they will move them around during the season, or just trying to find the best spot for them. Either way, I’m not too concerned.
At defensive end, I expect Anthony Spencer to post DeMarcus Ware like numbers this year, as he no longer has pass coverage responsibility and can just go after the guy with the ball. Ware will be healthy once again and have a much better season than the injury plagued one from last year. Add Tyrone Crawford, Ben Bass, Anthony Hargrove, Sean Lissemore and Kyle Wilber to the mix as backups that will get plenty of playing time. The end result is a really solid defensive line.
With a lot of talent at the skilled positions on offense and better offensive line play, expect the Cowboys to really move the ball well and score a lot of points. With four or more guys on defense going after the quarterback every time he drops back to pass, expect disruption leading to a lot more turnovers than we’ve seen the last few years.