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Thursday, January 12, 2012
Of the Cowboys' offensive line

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

All right. You want a break from Giants' stuff -- here you go. Let's talk about the Dallas Cowboys' plans for their offensive line. Let's use this well-detailed post from Blogging the Boys as our jumping-off point. I agree completely with their premise that the biggest problem area for the Cowboys on the line this year was center. I think they'll fix the Doug Free problem by moving him back to right tackle and Tyron Smith to the left side, and they were able to fix guard once they brought back Montrae Holland after Kyle Kosier got a bit more healthy.

Tony Romo
Cowbys center Phil Costa struggled in 2011, and the team may look to upgrade at the position.
But Phil Costa was a consistent problem at center, and it cost the Cowboys dearly. They need to fix it. BTB looks at the list of potential free-agent centers and concludes, correctly, that there isn't a long-term solution among that aged group. My feeling is that the Cowboys, if you go back four or five months, were hoping they had that long-term solution on their roster already. And I wonder if they still do hold out that hope.

The Cowboys drafted David Arkin and Bill Nagy last year. Nagy got hurt, and Arkin obviously didn't develop in time to be a help this year. They both play guard, but I remember a training camp conversation I had with then-offensive line coach Hudson Houck, who told me both were getting practice snaps at center and that both would have to be able to play it in a pinch if they were to stick around. Houck believed both players -- Nagy in particular -- had what it took to be an NFL center, and I wonder if the Cowboys will continue to think along those lines and try to find their solution internally from the Arkin/Nagy/Costa group. Costa is also still young, remember, and he does have a year's worth of experience, even if it was a disappointing one.

The Cowboys also have brought in a new offensive line coach, replacing Houck with Bill Callahan. Does Callahan have a guy, or a type of guy, in mind for center? Will he have some say in who the team brings in for the position? Will he be able to coach something out of Costa or Arkin or Nagy that we haven't yet seen? Will the Cowboys pursue someone from BTB's list to hold down the position for a year or two until one of the younger solutions develops? Will they really draft an interior offensive lineman in the middle of the first round?

I think they're likely to find better offensive line value at that No. 15 pick than they are to find value at one of their other need positions -- say, defensive back or pass-rusher. So unless they move up or down to position themselves to take someone at one of those positions, I do think it's reasonable to speculate about a guy like David DeCastro, the Stanford guard who's got a first-round grade. If you believe a talented guard can turn into a solid NFL center, that would add a guy to the mix they already have and produce a great deal of young depth at these interior line positions that clearly need upgrading.

My guess is that the Cowboys continue to think young at these spots, especially with the well respected Callahan in to help develop them now. Does that mean they won't pursue someone from that deep list of veteran free-agent centers? Not necessarily. But I believe their free-agent priorities will lie elsewhere, and that they're more likely to use the draft to address the line.