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Monday, August 29, 2011
Cowboys commit to O-line youth movement

By Tim MacMahon

IRVING, Texas -- The greybeards are gone from what was one of the NFL's oldest offensive lines. The Cowboys are committing to some kids.

"The guys who have been working with the ones throughout training camp will be the guys we anticipate being in the starting lineup when we play the Jets," Jason Garrett said.

That means rookies Tyron Smith and Bill Nagy and second-year center Phil Costa will join returning starters Doug Free and Kyle Kosier to form the Dallas offensive line.

"They’re young, but they’re working hard and we’re going to be ready," Free said. "We’ll go with what we’ve got and make the best of it."

Added offensive line coach Hudson Houck: "They’re challenges but obviously positive ones for us or we wouldn’t have done what we’ve done. These guys are young players, there’s no question. And they’ve got to get some experience, but they are hard working guys that are good athletes and so all of that is very positive."

Costa, an undrafted free agent last year, beat out five-time Pro Bowl center Andre Gurode for the starting job at center. On the day the Cowboys released Gurode, Garrett said the Cowboys are "somewhat confident" that Costa will recover from a sprained PCL in his right knee to start the Sept. 11 season opener.

Veteran Montrae Holland returned to practice, but Garrett made it clear he will be a reserve. Nagy, a seventh-round pick, earned the starting job at left guard. Holland opened training camp as a starter after Leonard Davis was released, but he reported in poor shape and lost the job while sitting out a month with a sore back.

Smith has been penciled into the starting lineup at right tackle since the moment the Cowboys selected him with the ninth overall pick to replace Marc Colombo.

"He will have some growing pains starting at right tackle in this league," Garrett said. "It’s a hard league, and he’ll certainly feel the effects throughout, and certainly the other young guys that we have in the lineup right now will feel those same growing pains.

"But we feel as a group, they’re smart, they’re tough, they’re getting on the defensive linemen or executing their assignments the right way, they’re finishing blocks, they’re sustaining blocks, a lot of the thing that we like. They’re really kind of setting the tempo for our group. Again, there will be a challenges all over the place for them individually and collectively. We have a long way to go and we’re going to try to take advantage of these practices leading up to that game, but we feel good about the direction that we’re going."