Cowboy Country - Predicting the Cowboys 53-man roster in 2013: Offensive Line

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Predicting the Cowboys 53-man roster in 2013: Offensive Line

Last season, the Dallas Cowboys entered the 2012 regular season with ten offensive linemen on the roster.

They finished the season with one the best passing units, finishing third among all teams, with 4,729 yards through the air.  In terms of sacks, they were right in the middle of the pack, allowing 36 sacks.

Rushing offense was a lost cause for the Cowboys. They finished next to dead last in rushing attempts (355), yards (1,265), yards per carry (3.6), and yards per game (79.1).

As the Jason Garrett offensive line overhaul enters the third season, his guys are outnumbered, but that does not mean that he has not helped make considerable improvements among the offensive line.

Center Kevin Kowalski was the lone ranger on the PUP list last season.  This season, tackle Demetress Bell, and center Ryan Cook are both on the Injury report. Guard Nate Livings is also injured, and it seems to be much more than a normal injury.

With about 11.1 million dollars available in cap space, and a huge cap hit against Livings, it is safe to say that the Cowboys have to give him another season, to see if he is capable of having the sub par seasons that he had in Cincinnati.

The struggles that the Cowboys offensive line had to endure in 2012 plague them in 2013. There is some continuity on the offensive line, however the starting group is once again in question going into the season opener. Depth is also an area of concern.

As the Cowboys prepare for their final game of the preseason, and the start of the regular season in less than two weeks, I decided to take an in-depth evaluation of perhaps one of the most important units going into the 2013-2014 season, the Dallas Cowboys offensive line.

Kevin Kowalski
Kowalski has not been able to move up from higher than the third left guard on the Cowboys’ roster due to injuries. He missed most of last season with an ankle injury. He has had opportunities to make a case, but can’t stay on the field long enough to do so. At just 24 years old, I would like to think that he has more upside than older guards on the offensive line. Kowalski does possess flexibility on the line, but in terms of second-year players, Kowalski is slightly behind guard David Arkin. Both linemen can contribute on the Cowboys roster, but it is unknown if both will make the roster.
Travis Frederick

Frederick has made an immediate impact on the Cowboys offensive line. He has continued to improve every week, and has been able to keep mental errors limited in the last two preseason games. Frederick will get stronger in the future, but is in good standing among other centers in the NFL. It has not been seen how he will fare against some of the stronger middle linebackers in the league. One of his biggest question marks coming to the NFL was his ability at the second level. This preseason, there has been ups and downs, but that comes with being a rookie.

Nate Livings

I was baffled on why the Cowboys felt that Livings was the perfect reclamation project for the Cowboys in 2012. Livings had just one complete season in his three years with the Bengals. In 2008, Livings was gave up the the most quarterback pressures among Bengals linemen, with 28.I n 2010, Pro Football Focus gave Livings a score of -7.6 grade. His competition in that season was Evan Mathis, who played considerably better that Livings, but also had a higher price tag. In 2011, Livings finished with a -3.9 run blocking grade, and allowed three sacks, and 17 pressures. Livings play has been inconsistent with the Cowboys as well. Add to that a nagging knee injury, and his chances of improving are slim. Livings turned 31 years old this offseason, and is not getting any younger.

Ronald Leary

Leary has been a pet project for the Cowboys for just a little while. The second year guard made a case for himself this offseason, and earned the left guard spot. This former left tackle at Memphis had to change positions to accommodate his MCL procedure in 2011. He is very athletic, as well as physical. He was having a great preseason, until a knee injury slowed him down. The left side of the line is considerably better with Leary’s style of play, especially in a zone scheme. He should be able to return for the season opener against the New York Giants. If not, the Cowboys have a replacement in Mackenzy Bernadeau, who made the move from right guard to left.

Mackenzy Bernadeau

Bernadeau had his first complete season last year, proving that young, offensive linemen, can sometimes, overcome injury. His play was up and down last season, but it was the best season of the 27 year olds’ career.  Bernadeau is of 13 remaining seventh-round picks from the 2008 class, which also includes his current teammate Demetress Bell.  As a guard, Bernadeau has raw skill, which is still being continuing to improve. You have to be on the field to get better, and he is doing just that.  He has faired okay in the preseason, especially with dealing with a position change, as have most of the offensive line. He will have to stay healthy in 2013.

Phil Costa

Costa is another offensive lineman with one just complete season under his belt. His best season was in 20121, when he helped contribute to a depleted offensive line. Last season, injuries plagued Costa. So much, that he was on the Cowboys IR for the last month of the regular season. The Cowboys brought in Ryan Cook last year, and drafted Frederick this year, which was a telling sign of the trust level between the Cowboys, and Costa. There have been many improvements for Costa this preseason. The four-year veteran is one of the few quality backups on the Cowboys roster, however he is just not good enough to start at center at this point of his career.

David Arkin

Arkin is getting there, as in terms of a complete player. He is a punishing run blocker, who is entering the third year of his career, and has what it takes to become a starter on the Cowboys offensive line at some point in the future. His ability to get to the second level, and actually sustain blocks is one of the better ones on the team. His drawback is lack of experience, which usually equates to inconsistencies. At the age of 26, he should be able to improve his pass blocking abilities considerably in the next couple of seasons.

Tyron Smith

Tyron Smith continues to be the ninth overall guy that the Cowboys drafted him for. He has only missed one opportunity to protect Tony Romo’s blind side in two seasons. Defensive line coach Rod Marinelli could quite possibly be the best thing to ever happen to Smith. He gets the opportunity to go against one of the best pass rushers in the game, in Demarcus Ware.  With this alone, and especially the way he has competed against Ware, it is quite possible that Smith could become the first offensive lineman to make the Pro Bowl since 2010, when Andre Gurode did it.

Jermey Parnell

Parnell is another third year player with tremendous upside. Parnell is an athlete that is learning the game as quickly as he can.  He showed his potential last season, when he stepped in, on occasion for tackle Doug Free. Injuries have limited Parnell this offseason. He has only played in one preseason game, and you can tell. The Cowboys are going into the regular season, with their top five offensive lineman, and Parnell is a part of that mix. Parnell just needs some time to get back into the swing of things, and make some minor technique adjustments. It is a shame that he missed most of this preseason; it could’ve been a true opportunity to improve.

Doug Free
After a rather disappointing campaign last season, tackle Doug Free came back better than ever. He has improved his strength dramatically, so much that he pancaked Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake in a way that I have yet to see from either player. He has continued this momentum throughout training camp, and has also improved his technique. He has also limited the mental errors this season. There is no question that Free is a part of the future of the Cowboys offensive line. Free is hands-down the MVP of camp on the offensive line, and quite possibly the entire Cowboys team. He has made the switch to right guard, helping solidify the offensive line quite considerably. The group will only be stronger if Leary is able to make the season opener.

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