- Calvin Watkins, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Dallas Cowboys signed guard Mackenzy Bernadau to a four-year $11 million deal last season with the goal of upgrading the interior of the offensive line.
Bernadeau has undergone three surgeries since his arrival in Dallas, including one this offseason on his shoulder.
"It’s disappointing that Mackenzy has been hurt as much as he’s been," coach Jason Garrett said this week from the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix. "Since he got here, he was hurt all through the off-season last year, April, May, June, July, into August. He did a good job overcoming all of that and coming into a new system of football and becoming a contributing player for us."
A big issue for the Cowboys regarding Bernadeau is his play. He didn't get benched during the season, but shared first-team snaps in practice with Derrick Dockery because of his lackluster play.
Bernadeau started at center due to injuries to Ryan Cook, and improved his play as the season progressed. Moving forward, with young guards on the roster such as Ronald Leary and David Arkin, and the possibility of drafting a guard in the draft, can Bernadeau maintain his status as a starter.
"I think what we saw with him over the course of the season was he got better," Garrett said. "I think a lot of that had to do with just being in our system and understanding what we’re asking him to do. He dealt with some injuries during the year as well. He’s been dealing with some things over the last year or so, deal with an injury this off-season too. Certainly you’d rather have him on the field. But having a year under his belt certainly will help him. We think he’ll get better as a result of that."
The Cowboys liked the progress of Leary who got better in practices as a practice squad player and was moved to the active roster when another NFL team tried to sign him. Kevin Kowalski, who also battled injuries, is another player the Cowboys have some value in.
"We do have some young players we’d like to make sure we give them a chance to contribute and compete." Garrett said. "We drafted Arkin a couple years ago, he did a really good job of being a jack of all trades through training camp last year. (He) never played center before and did play a lot of that during camp and pre-season. We feel like this is a really important year for him to step up and be someone who contributes to our football team. Ron Leary made great strides during the season as well. We feel good about a couple of young guys who might possibly come in and compete for those spots along with the veteran players we do have."
If you want to talk about any offensive linemen who needs to play better, yes, you can talk about right tackle Doug Free, but Bernadeau is also high on that list.