Let’s say for a moment you are the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Mr. Jason Garrett. You are looking at the 2013 version of this team and you see amazing offensive weapons like Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Dez Bryant and Miles Austin. You’re giddy. You may not have a top-flight running back but you have four guys, all under the age of 25, who can tote the rock for you. You have a new defensive scheme with some amazing studs to play in it such as DeMarcus Ware, Sean Lee, Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. You’re two weeks away from facing the New York Giants on Sunday Night Football on NBC. A team you have NEVER beat in your new stadium. Let me repeat that…
YOU HAVE NEVER BEAT THE NEW YORK GIANTS IN YOUR OWN NEW HOUSE!!!
What’s your biggest concern keeping you from changing this ridiculous fact?
Your offensive line…
The mantra of training camp has been that you will play your five best guys on the line, regardless of position. That’s a nice thought, in theory, but in practice? Not so much. Is there even five healthy options on this roster? Debatable. There are currently sixteen offensive linemen in camp. It is likely that the Cowboys keep only nine, maybe even eight and hope that a better option arises from cuts made around the league. They have tried to reach out to a couple of free agents, however Brandon Moore decided he liked flirting more than actual dating and Brian Waters basically is just disinterested altogether.
As it stands right now, in order to fill that “best five guys” piece of the puzzle, there are only three guys that fit. Travis Frederick should be and better be the day one starter at Center. Not Guard, Center. Tyron Smith is locked and loaded at Left Tackle and Doug Free belongs somewhereon the line, be it Right Tackle or Right Guard. The other two spots are clearly up for grabs.
June 11, 2013; Irving, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys center Travis Frederick (70) and Tyron Smith (77) during minicamp at Dallas Cowboys Headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Ronald Leary would probably win the right to be the fourth option and plugged in at Left Guard or Right Guard which would move Free to his Tackle spot however he is currently on the mend from an arthroscopic knee surgery and is questionable to even be available for Week One. From there it’s anyone’s guess. Jeremy Parnell could play Right Tackle but he’s had almost no practice time since the end of last season and probably is not likely to be the fifth option. Mackenzy Bernadeau had a very solid outing against a pretty stout Cincinnati Bengals defensive front last night but again, he is not super reliable when speaking on the injury front. That in of itself is becoming annoying, given that he has three years and almost $6 million dollars left on his contract. Phil Costa’s best position is at Center but it is not worth it to move Frederick to the Guard spot. David Arkin had a good start to camp but has since kind of fizzled out.
June 11, 2013; Irving, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys guard Ronald Leary (65) center Travis Frederick (70) and guard David Arkin (62) during minicamp at Dallas Cowboys Headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
So what’s the best thing for the Cowboys to do???
Well, there is the option of waiting until everyone has there final cuts in but at that point, you would only have nine days to get that player acclimated to your new system. You could go with what you have and hope that it works out but that puts the season in jeopardy and quite frankly, this team is not in the position to waste another year trying to figure out issues like this.
My solution is to kick the tires, so to speak, on a couple of veteran free agent options that are still available. At the Right Tackle spot, there are two decent options from which to choose. The first is Jammal Brown. Brown last played in 2011, missing all of last season with a hip injury that required surgery. While that is an obvious negative, it may also be a positive for the Cowboys as he remains available despite his impressive resume as a two-time Pro-Bowler and All-Pro selection. Brown is huge, coming in at 6’6” and 315 pounds, who has good power and active hands to lock on and control defenders at the point of attack. It is likely that the Cowboys could sign him for the veteran’s minimum of $840,000 since he would seem to be low on leverage with his recent injury issue.
Dec 2, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys tackle Doug Free (68) and guard Mackenzy Bernadeau (73) and center Ryan Cook (63) and guard Nate Livings (71) and tackle Tyron Smith (77) in the huddle during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys beat the Eagles 38-33. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Another Right Tackle option is Winston Justice. Justice is a younger version of Brown with less accolades but less wear and tear as well. He last played for the Colts in 2012 making $1.5 million and like Brown, would only garner the same
veteran’s minimum of $840,000. Justice has above-average initial quickness and adequate body control and agility, relying on his hand technique to stall pass-rushers when pass-protecting. Either of these options would be beneficial to the Cowboys, even if only to give them a reliable option as a swing tackle if they choose to keep and play Free at Right Tackle and Smith at Left Tackle.
Lastly, Guard Cooper Carlisle is still available as an answer to the Cowboys depth and injury issues at this position. Carlisle is not great, but definitely solid. He is certainly more of a technician than a big bodied mauler which ironically would fit into the Cowboys offensive system a lot better any way. The negative with this option of course is Carlisle’s age (36) and the fact he would command more money than the other two so there is definitely risk involved.
Because Dallas has approximately $6.5 million left in salary-cap room this year, I feel it would be wise to use some of that money to shore up the biggest trouble area on this team. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen but the positive news is that it appears that the Joneses are at least aware it is an issue and seem to be open to rectifying it. However, when Week One comes, if I were to be asked who the “Fab Five” would be I would say you will be looking at Free at RT, Leary at RG, Frederick at C, Bernadeau at LG and Smith at LT. We can only hope that group is good enough to help provide this team with their first win of the season and first ever win at AT&T Stadium against the hated Giants.