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Flexibility Key For Dallas Cowboys Offensive Line

Zack Martin

The Dallas Cowboys offensive line has spent the past four years retooling  and even though some believe the reclamation project is over, there still is a bit of work left to do. You don’t have to take my word for it because the team’s actions in the draft told us all exactly how they felt by almost trading back into the second round to select a second offensive lineman in order to help dominate the line of scrimmage.

Although they still having some work to do along the offensive line, the the Cowboys have given themselves great flexibility at the position as a whole. What used to be one of the biggest weaknesses on the Cowboys has now become a strength. Their collective strength as a unit has as much to with their versatility as it does their skill.

Two years ago the Cowboys signed Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau to help solidify the guard position; they were starting Phil Costa at center. During the 2012 season the team also turned to Ryan Cook after Costa was injured and in an effort to strengthen the position because it had become a major weakness on offense. Cook managed to get injured as well, and the team turned to Bernadeau as an emergency option at center for meaningful snaps during the season.

It turned out that Bernadeau actually played well at center and led some to believe it could be his best position along the line. And thus began the process of the Cowboys gaining the necessary flexibility to thrive on their offensive line.

First the team drafted Travis Frederick to start at center. Frederick started every game in the middle for the Cowboys in 2013 and the team now has a player capable of thriving at the position for years to come. Adding to the appeal of Frederick is the fact that he also has the ability to play guard if necessary.

Fortunately for Dallas, the team never had to find out because the three man rotation of Bernadeau, Brian Waters and Ronald Leary held up throughout the season. If an injury did happen to Bernadeau or Frederick last season, the Cowboys could have dealt with the issue because they had versatility on their line.

Heading into the 2014 season, the Cowboys are in even better position. Costa is gone as the backup center and the drafting of Zack Martin has strengthened the offensive line and added even more flexibility. Dallas now has a great starting offensive line and should be able to withstand an injury; here is the breakdown:

TYRON SMITH INJURY

The scariest of all scenarios for the Cowboys; the team could use swing tackle Jeremey Parnell at left tackle. They could also move Doug Free to LT, Zack Martin to right tackle and insert whoever loses the LG battle into the starting lineup. It would hurt the Cowboys but at least they would still be covered with players who have started games in the NFL and a stud first-round prospect.

LEFT GUARD INJURY

The easiest injury to survive. No matter who wins the starting left guard job, the team can easily plug in Bernadeau or Leary in at guard. Both have starting experience and it shouldn’t weaken the group much.

TRAVIS FREDERICK INJURY

If the team should lose Frederick, the Cowboys could slide Bernadeau in at center and insert Leary in at left guard. Mack is a viable option at center. According to reports, the team feels he has very good potential at the position.

ZACK MARTIN INJURY

In this case the Cowboys would just go back to the starting lineup from last year, which worked out very well.

DOUG FREE INJURY

Just like with a Smith injury, the Cowboys could make the decision on whether to move Parnell into the starting lineup or to move Martin over to RT and replace the RG spot with the loser of the LG battle. Either way, the team should be just fine and can sustain an injury to Free.

*The Cowboys also have Darrion Weems to play tackle and he could also make the team depending on what happens in training camp, perhaps even in Parnell’s spot if the team wants to save a little money.

Any way we break it down the team has great flexibility along the offensive line and it’s a major strength for the Cowboys. That versatility can also serve the Cowboys well because it may allow them to keep an extra defensive lineman, running back, safety or wide receiver coming out of training camp, instead of using that roster spot to carry another offensive lineman.

The Dallas Cowboys have done a great job of rebuilding their offensive line in recent seasons and acquiring players with good flexibility has been a major bonus.

You can chat with or follow Ben on twitter @BenGrimaldi 

Ben Grimaldi

Ben Grimaldi

Senior Analyst ProFootBallTalkLine.com at SportsTalkLine
Writer for ProFootBallTalkLine.Com. Associate sports producer. Lets talk sports! On Twitter @BenGrimaldi and Podcasting for STL!
Ben Grimaldi


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  • Ridgelake

    Good article. It sure helps having 6 starter quality guys on the roster, including 4 on the interior. The interior is the area where there is clear coverage.
    Its the OT that seems to be a question behind the starters. I question if they’d move 3 or potentially 4 parts to cover an injury to Smith (Free to LT, Martin to RT, and Bernie from LG to RG and Leary from bench to LG). The more likely choice would be either Weems or Parnell. And that’s where the concern comes in if we had to rely on 1 of those 2 for extended time. But as Parcells used to say, “You can’t have a steak on every plate”.

  • Prince Of Heck

    Can Frederick really be a solid guard? He didn’t look too good in that position at last year’s training camp. But I agree that not since the championship years have the Cowboys had so much OL depth as they do now. I’m hopeful that Frederick and Martin can upgrade this unit into elite status.

  • Lee1936

    I’m looking for CN’s Cowboys’ Depth Chart. Looks like we’re the victims of theft.

  • Lee1936

    Mack…an option at Center? You mean Zack Martin?

    • Ben Grimaldi

      No, i mean Bernadeau. He played well at center in limited PT in 2012 & some team officials thought it was his best position. Altho, Martin can also play center in a pinch, an added bonus