The Dallas Cowboys have been plagued by the injury bug for the last couple of seasons and it doesn’t appear that’s going to change in 2013 as Ronald Leary, a rising star on the offensive line, will miss time due to a minor knee surgery. The Cowboys are still optimistic he’ll be able to start the season opener against the New York Giants but even if he does, Dallas can’t try to re-invent the wheel up front because that would cause a critical backslide in the development of the offensive line.
With Leary in question, the Cowboys are considering moving a bunch of players around to plan for a worst-case scenario. Being prepared in advance is definitely a good thing and that’s something Dallas doesn’t normally do, which is another plus, but the team could severely stunt the growth of several promising young players in the process, which would have a much worse long-term effect than what might come in the short-term.
Kevin Kowalski is by far the Cowboys’ best option at guard during Leary’s absence. Lord knows Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau aren’t going to get the job done while David Arkin still shows little flashes of talent that keep him in the conversation for a starting job. What the Cowboys absolutely cannot do is move Travis Frederick to guard and re-insert Phil Costa into the starting lineup for two reasons: it will keep Frederick from becoming the star of which he’s capable; and it will put Dallas’ entire offense at a disadvantage with Costa on the field.
Folks, Costa is the worst offensive lineman on the Cowboys’ roster and he’s shown that time and again in the past calendar year. He’s proven that he can’t handle all the pre-snap duties that come with being an NFL center and he gets blown off the line so often that Tony Romo‘s internal clock virtually shifts into fast forward when he’s on the field. Even if keeping Costa off the field means biting the bullet and putting Livings and/or Bernadeau back on the field to start the season, the Cowboys would be in better shape than they would with Costa on the field.
Now, in a perfect scenario, Leary will be fine and start at guard next to Frederick at center with the other guard spot up for grabs, which would allow Dallas to hold a true competition for the starting job. Regardless, the Cowboys can’t move players like Frederick from their true, natural positions for the short-term because that could spell disaster in the long-term.
Thinking ahead, the Cowboys can’t just go out and sign a veteran Pro Bowler next year to come in and shore things up because the team will have virtually no salary cap space in 2014. So it’s time for Bill Callahan to show what he can do with the development of young players like Kowalski and Arkin. The Cowboys must hold steady in this case because shifting the offensive line around will simply result in another .500 season and likely several more after it.