Changes abound for offensive line vs. Giants

September, 8, 2012
9/08/12
11:10
AM ET
After three offensive snaps against the New York Giants, Cowboys center Phil Costa had to leave after re-injuring his back. So when Ryan Cook entered the game it meant the Cowboys had five offensive linemen playing together for the first time in a regular season game.

Injuries prevented the Cowboys from developing a good chemistry along the offensive line during training camp. When Costa went down, the Cowboys took on the Giants with a completely different offensive line than when the teams met last season.

Cook wasn't at center with Dallas last year. Guards Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau were acquired in the offseason. Doug Free was here last year, but he played left tackle. Tyron Smith was too, but he was at right tackle. Free and Smith switched sides in the offseason.

It was almost a brand new offensive line, and it was a brand new alignment.

As a team the Cowboys rushed for 143 yards, but it wasn't easy. DeMarco Murray did average 6.6 yards per carry to the tune of 131 yards. But Murray had just 35 yards rushing on 11 carries before busting through for a 48-yard rush where he had no room to run and ran into fullback Lawrence Vickers before finding space down the sideline.

Quarterback Tony Romo scrambled for 12 yards and avoided two sacks, including where an untouched defender came sprinting off the edge, but he was sacked twice.

Smith was penalized for three false start and Free also had one.

Swing tackle Jermey Parnell was brought in as a tackle-eligible player twice, and he missed a block on fourth-and-1 play where Vickers was stopped for no gain.

It seems the Cowboys offensive line needs time off to regroup more than any other position.

"I don’t know if you ever breathe a sigh of relief," coach Jason Garrett said. "You just got to keep getting better, and it will be good for us to kind of have a couple days away from it. Some guys can get refreshed. We’ve got to go back to work on Monday and it will be fun to have that offensive line group playing together. It’s been a little bit of a theme for us here, talking about how important it is for the line to do that and probably at that position more than any other."

Some of the false start penalties were attributed to the cadence being unfamiliar to Cook and maybe to crowd noise, though Garrett offered no excuses.

Costa is day-to-day with the back injury he aggravated on the first snap of the game. The Cowboys have had issues at center all summer due to injuries and ineffective play.

Now a week into the season, the center position becomes a concern.

"With guys playing next to each other, it is important," Garrett said. "It's an important time on task, a game under their belt, handling different things that come up in a ball game. I think we will all learn from those experiences going forward."
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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