On the day of final cuts in the NFL, the Cowboys continued to address a problem area from last season by bolstering the interior of their offensive line.
The Cowboys acquired veteran offensive lineman Ryan Cook from the Miami Dolphins for a 2013 seventh-round draft pick. Cook (6-6, 325) will be a backup center and guard for the Cowboys.
Cook, 29, has started 40 of the 77 games. A second-round pick out of New Mexico in 2006, has started games at center, right guard and right tackle.
The Cowboys were able to get an up-close look at Cook on Wednesday at Cowboys Stadium when he started at center against Dallas in the preseason finale.
“We knew that there was a possibility here, so we really evaluated him in the ballgame,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Friday on “The Fan” KRLD-FM (105.3). “This really was done for our depth, plus he’s very capable because he’s started several games in the NFL. He’s very capable of getting out there and competing. Hopefully you’ll see a lot of him this year.”
The Cowboys still plan to start Phil Costa at center. Costa started Wednesday and was in for 12 offensive plays. He had been out since Aug. 10 with a back injury but is expected to play in the season opener Wednesday at the Giants.
The Cowboys signed free-agent guards Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau this off-season with the expectation that they would start. Both battled injuries but are healthy now.
Ankle injuries to reserve interior offensive linemen Bill Nagy and Kevin Kowalski hurt the Cowboys’ depth. Nagy was waived in mid-August, and Kowalski has been placed on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, keeping him out of the team’s first six games.
The Cowboys started working guard David Arkin at center in training camp, but he struggled with his shotgun snaps throughout the preseason. Arkin, a fourth-round draft pick in 2011 out of Missouri State, didn’t appear in any games last season.
“We all know that we’ve been struggling to some degree with Kowalski out the entire spring as well as during training camp,” Jones said. “We have counted on him for depth and don’t want to totally dismiss him, but he’s down the road with where we are and what we’ve seen.”
Brandon George | DMN
The Dallas Cowboys could get several injured players back next week for practices with the San Diego Chargers.
Guard Nate Livings (hamstring) is expected to return to practice Monday and there’s a good chance three defensive starters could join him.
Nose tackle Jay Ratliff (foot), defensive end Jason Hatcher (hamstring) and outside linebacker Anthony Spencer (hamstring) could all return.
Ratliff and Hatcher got some work during the pregame warm-up Saturday but didn’t play.
"We certainly want to get them some work this week if they’re able to do that," coach Jason Garrett said. "Again, working against another team just livens things up and makes it more competitive."
The Cowboys were missing 19 players from their 89-man roster due to injury for Saturday’s game against the Chargers.
And that number could have been 20 if not for the team waiving injured guard/center Bill Nagy last week. Outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware tweaked his hamstring during Thursday’s practice and missed the game. If this would have been the regular season, Ware said he would have played. But the Cowboys are being cautious with injured players, especially those suffering hamstring issues.
One player who won’t return fully this week is wide receiver Miles Austin (hamstring). It appears he will miss the third preseason game, although he is running well during rehab work.
"Done a good job the last few days in his rehab," Garrett said. "I don’t know if he’s going to fully practice (this upcoming week) but we want to ease him back into it. He made some strides last week and he looked good."
RELATED: Nate Livings will practice Monday, inching Cowboys OL closer to health
Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said offensive guard Nate Livings will practice Monday.
It will be the first padded work for Livings since the third day of camp, when he suffered a hamstring injury. He and Mackenzy Bernadeau, signed as free agents to be the starting guards, have not practiced together yet.
Starting center Phil Costa is still expected to miss a little time, but it’s a start toward health for the offensive line the Cowboys envisioned – left tackle Tyron Smith, left guard Livings, center Costa, right guard Bernadeau and right tackle Doug Free.
The Dallas Cowboys hoped that Bill Nagy, who was waived/injured earlier in the week, would pass through unclaimed so they could re-sign him and put the guard/center on injured reserve.
That won’t happen.
The Detroit Lions claimed Nagy, who will miss the 2012 season after having ankle surgery last week.
Nagy, a seventh-round pick out of Wisconsin in 2011, started at guard for the Cowboys last season before he broke the same ankle (right) he injured on the first day of practice. He was working at center.
The Cowboys’ center troubles are far from over.
Before departing for Oakland on Sunday, the team had hoped to finalize a one-year deal with veteran center Jamaal Jackson, helping to ease the strain caused by a slew of injuries at the position. However, Jackson’s workout was apparently so poor that the Cowboys chose not to sign him after all. The 32-year-old had been released by Philadelphia in March after eight seasons, then signed by the New York Giants. But he left the team after one practice in New York, with head coach Tom Coughlin believing he had intended to retire.
If Jackson does have anymore football in him, it won’t be in Dallas.
The club still has about five free agent centers in mind, according to a source, but the clock is ticking. After a signing, three work days must pass before the player can join the team in practice. Without getting to see the center in pads, the team might be reluctant to dress him against San Diego, in the second preseason game on Saturday.
To make room for Jackson, the team had planned to waive/injured one of the centers who had been hurt, last year’s seventh-round pick, Bill Nagy. Under that designation, Nagy will be exposed to a waiver claim for 24 hours. If no team picks him up, the Cowboys will retain his rights and place him on the Injured Reserve, ending his season.
Nagy, who was not a starter at the end of his career at Wisconsin, impressed the Cowboys during training camp last year, earning a starting nod on opening night. He started four games near the beginning of 2011, but was lost for the year when he broke his left ankle at New England.
Nagy had opened training camp this year in a competition with Phil Costa for the first-team center job, but suffered a high left ankle sprain after just a couple days of practice. He is visiting foot and ankle specialist Dr. Bob Anderson in Charlotte, and is expected to require serious surgery.
If a deal is struck later on Sunday, the earliest a new center would be eligible to practice with the club would be Thursday. If nothing happens until Monday, the player couldn’t practice until Friday, when only a walkthrough is scheduled before the team departs for San Diego.
|LT||Tyron Smith||Jermey Parnell||Jeff Adams||Tyrone Novikoff|
|LG||Nate Livings||Derrick Dockery||Ronald Leary|
|C||Phil Costa||Bill Nagy||Kevin Kowalski||Harland Gunn|
|RG||Mackenzy Bernadeau||David Arkin||Daniel Loper|
|RT||Doug Free||Pat McQuistan||Levy Adcock|
RED: Injury concerns
Injuries piling up at Center, starting to become a concern
When the Dallas Cowboys arrived at training camp nearly two weeks ago, the center position was hardly a concern.
Not only did they have a young starter in Phil Costa entering his second full season at center, but they had two second-year backups that have versatility to play guard.
But a high-ankle sprain to Bill Nagy, coupled with a nagging ankle injury for Kevin Kowalski that got worse, and suddenly the center spot has the Cowboys scratching their heads as they prepare to start the preseason Monday night in Oakland.
Do they go get a veteran center and crowd the position even more, or simply try to make do and piece the position together until either one of the young guys catches on or the injured players return.
For now, it sounds like the Cowboys are going with Option No. 2. But don’t think they haven’t done their due diligence with the first option as well.
“Trust me, we’ve scoured the short lists,” head coach Jason Garrett said in regards to free-agent center. “We’ve talked to different agents about trying to address that. Right now, we feel like the best way to address it is with the guys we have in house. If someone comes available that is attractive to us, we’ll certainly address it that way.”
For now, the Cowboys are using the players on the roster to patch up the center spot, particularly with the backup spots.
Guards David Arkin and Harland Gunn have worked at center in practice and on Thursday, tackle/guard Pat McQuistan took a few snaps before practice.
Costa isn’t expected to have much competition now for the starting job, but don’t be surprised if the Cowboys at least explore the option of using Mackenzy Bernadeau at center, at least as a backup.
While he on Thursday was practicing for the first time since joining the Cowboys, Bernadeau might be an option down the line. For now, he’s a guard and that’s where the focus will remain.
“We’ve just got to see him play guard first,” Garrett said. “That’s where he’s most comfortable. That’s one of the things that we liked about him when we signed him in free agency was his position flex. He has played center, had the ball in his hands before, so that’s a positive thing. But right now we just want to see him break the huddle and play some football first and foremost, and hopefully he’ll function in practice and keep growing day-by-day.”
In the last few days, there have been several poor snaps, with botched shotguns and quarterback-center exchanges. Garrett, a former quarterback in his own right, said most of the center issues this team has stem from injury.
“We felt very good about our center, our backup center, our third center, the guys who can play both center and guard going into training camp – we just had a rash of injuries,” Garrett said. “So you try to adjust as best as you can. Arkin’s done a nice job. He hasn’t snapped before in his life and he’s just taking snaps at guard and then he goes over and he’s trying to learn to play center. We’re trying to cross-train some other guys. It’s part of what you go through when you have a rash of injuries at a particular position. You just try to scramble a little bit and come up with a way to handle it.”
Players on the street include former Cowboys Pro Bowler Andre Gurode, along with other vets Jeff Faine, Jason Brown and Jamaal Jackson.
But most of those guys would likely come in looking to start. The Cowboys have that guy in Costa, whom the coaches and scouts will say has improved tremendously over the offseason.
Costa said his on-field communication with the starting quarterback has been one of the most important aspects he’s tried to improve this year.
“Being on the same page with Tony is really important, making the calls and helping him out in that respect is important,” Costa said. “I’ve been working on the techniques and that makes a big difference.”
Garrett said he’s seen a different player in Costa this year.
“We have more confidence in him. He’s played center for us in games, and for the most part he’s done a pretty decent job,” Garrett said. “He’s had some hiccups over the last year or so with that as well. When you have the ball in your hands it’s a big responsibility. There’s a reason why centers typically are among the smartest guys up on the offensive line because they can handle some of that responsibility, intellectually and also the responsibility that comes with having the ball in your hands. So we’re always working on it, we’re always emphasizing it to our team. We’ve just got to do it better.”
EDITORS NOTE: Excellent video below. You owe to to yourself to check out this show. An MP3 download is also available for your computer or phone. Enjoy!
The Break takes a look at the offensive line today as they continue to break down a position each day of training camp. Duration: 1:01:35 (Download the MP3 HERE)
RELATED: Jerry Jones not concerned about bad snaps, said that’s what practice is for
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is not concerned about the spate of bad snaps that have turned practice into a circus at times. He said he has no interest in signing a center just to get through practice and believes centers Phil Costa and David Arkin will improve.
“That is what practice is about,” Jones said. “That gives you a good chance to see if the guy can think about the snap as well as concentrate on what he is doing out there. Arkin hasn’t been doing this much, so I give him some slack. Costa needs more consistency.
RELATED: Derrick Dockery takes a few snaps with first team
Veteran guard Derrick Dockery who joined the team a week into training camp has opened a few eyes of late.
So much so that he has thrown himself into the competition for a possible starting job with Nate Livings, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Ron Leary and David Arkin. Dockery alternated some first team reps in practice with Arkin on Thursday.
“I was impressed with Dockery today,” owner Jerry Jones said. “Dockery has a chance to be what he wasn’t last year because of his late arrival last year and his injury situation last year. He did look impressive out there to me.”
Bernadeau and Livings were signed in free agency to be the starters but both have missed time in camp with injury. Bernadeau practiced on Thursday for the first time, alternating at the other guard spot with Leary.
If Dockery continues to impress, it could give the Cowboys even more of a chance to try Bernadeau at center where he compete with Phil Costa.
RELATED: Mackenzy Bernadeau excited to practice for first time
Guard Mackenzy Bernadeau took practice reps with the Cowboys first time in camp.
Actually they were his first reps since joining the Cowboys in free agency with a four-year, $11 million contract after spending the first four years of his career with the Panthers.
He has been sidelined since May because of hip and knee surgeries and began training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
"Yeah it’s always good to get reps with your teammates," Bernadeau said. "I’m excited about that. I’m feeling great. I want to get in there and get as many reps as I can.
It’s been a while since I’ve been out there with the guys. Getting the reps, being there, working hard and being able to hit people will be fun."
Bernadeau alternated first team reps with rookie free agent Ron Leary but that’s just part of the process for Leary who was signed to help solidify the Cowboys offensive line.
Bernadeau said he was eager to prove himself to his teammates.
"Yeah you have to earn the respect of your teammates," Bernadeau said. "We have a great group of guys here that I’ve worked with. I’ve got their respect but you still want to prove yourself on the field every day and every practice. So I look forward to doing that."
Bernadeau will work first at guard but the Cowboys will give him some reps at center as well in hopes that he can compete with Phil Costa for the starting job or at least give them an option there in case of injury. Costa’s primary two backups and would be competitors for the starting job _ Bill Nagy and Kevin Kowalski _ are sidelined for the entire preseason and possible into the regular season with ankle injuries.
Bernadeau took some snaps in some preseason games in Carolina but none in the regular season. He said he is ready to do whatever is asked of him.
"I’m just going to do what I’m told," Bernadeau said. "I’ll be ready to compete."
MOUNTING FRUSTRATION: Jerry Jones holding his breath about O Line even before todays injury to Phil Costa
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was already worried about the interior offensive line and holding its breath about whether it would hold up in front of quarterback Tony Romo.
And that was before center Phil Costa left practice on Friday with a back injury. David Arkin took reps in his place on the first team.
The Cowboys don’t believe the injury is serious but it came at a bad time with just one practice remaining before the preseason opener against the Raiders.
It’s also another setback for the interior offensive line that is already without three players because of injury in guard Bill Nagy (ankle), center Kevin Kowalski (ankle) and guard Nate Livings (hamstring). Guard Mackenzy Bernadeau returned to practice this week for first team after being undergoing hip and knee surgeries in the offseason.
The Cowboys have not decided if he will play against the Raiders as they choosing to remain cautious.
It all Jones admittedly frustrated.
"I think frustration is probably good in this case," Jones said. I must tell you that I am holding my breath a little bit because I need the interior of this line to be a source of confidence for Tony and to feel good about his protection in there. We can talk about the running game. I know that helps protect him in our passing game. But I look at it principally by it beginning with protection for him. That’s got me a little angst right now, but I am liking some of the things I am seeing in there, although Costa raised his head late out here in the afternoon, but I don’t know how serious it is."
Clarence Hill | FWST
RELATED: Injury Report: Phil Costa hurts lower back
The Dallas Cowboys were just starting to get healthy and then center Phil Costa hurt his lower back and missed the last 45 minutes of practice Friday afternoon. David Arkin and Harland Gunn moved up the depth chart to get snaps. Costa’s status is uncertain, but it comes at a bad time with the Cowboys having just one more practice before the preseason opener at Oakland on Monday night.
- Nose tackle Jay Ratliff got some more snaps in practice Friday after getting — well sneaking — in one snap Thursday afternoon. Ratliff (foot) looked pretty good moving around on the field. After he came out, Ratliff had a chat with the trainers to talk about how he’s feeling. Ratliff is used to playing with power and quickness and he displayed that Friday.
- Tight end John Phillips didn’t practice in pads but did pat-and-go without a helmet in the walkthrough.
- Guard Mackenzy Bernadeau (hip and knee) worked with the first and second teams and showed some power and good lateral movement during the practice.
Editors Note: An in-depth post will be available in the morning about this issue, with related video and articles.
Dallas Cowboys center Phil Costa said he is watching a lot of tape of New York Jets center Nick Mangold.
That is the model for Costa as he works under new Cowboys offensive line coach Bill Callahan, who helped develop Mangold into a Pro Bowl player.
“I’ve watched tons of tape of Mangold,” Costa said Wednesday at Cowboys Golf Club, where he was set to play in the Cowboys’ annual sponsor appreciation golf tournament. “It’s fun to watch him. He does all the calls that we are using now. Watching him on the field and how he applies them and his technique. He’s a great player, so it’s fun to watch him on tape.”
Costa started every game at center for the Dallas Cowboys last year, but he is expected to have competition for the spot this year. Free agent signee Mackenzie Bernadeau and second-year guards Bill Nagy and Kevin Kowalski have played center.
“He certainly faces competition,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We have a lot of guys, some young guys who we like there, but Phil did a good job for us last year. He’s another one of those guys who came into last season and earned that position – undrafted free agent two years ago, undersized, too this, too that, too much the other, but just said, ‘Hey, I’m a good football player,’ and tried to show us that everyday. He’s a serious-minded kid. He works hard. He’s tough. I think he’s an underappreciated athlete. We’re seeing that more and more now.
“I just think the experience of playing will help him. Having said all that, he’s got to compete every day to earn that job.”
Last year, Costa benefited from the experience of right guard Kyle Kosier. They shared the line-calling duties. But with Kosier’s release, that part of the game falls to Costa now.
“The center definitely takes a lot of responsibility with making all the calls and reading the safeties,” he said. “It’s important you know. We’re watching tons of film right now, just trying to learn everything that we’re putting in. In the long run, it’s going to be pretty good.”
With Callahan, Costa said he is learning more about the center position than he ever imagined.
“You can be in there for days and weeks and months, you can always learn something new,” he said. “That’s what’s fun about it.”
PALM BEACH, Fla. — Head coach Jason Garrett wants competition across the roster, and that could include the center position currently held by Phil Costa.
Undrafted in 2010, Costa replaced five-time Pro Bowler Andre Gurode and started all 16 games. Signing veteran guards Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau would surround the smaller Costa with bigger blockers.
But team owner/GM Jerry Jones didn’t rule out drafting a guard or center at some point in the draft, and he said 2011 draft picks Bill Nagy and David Arkin could slide over from guard and compete with Costa.
"We know Nagy can play center," Jones said. "With that in mind that competitive aspect will make us better in of itself.
"Jason is right: the competition is a big part of why Costa should have success here and why he ought to be better. There is some competition here. It gives us great depth situation."
The Cowboys never got in on the Carl Nicks’ sweepstakes, and the Saints are hoping to replace Nicks with the second-best guard on the market in Ben Grubbs. But Dallas has gotten a guard, albeit for a lot less money and with a lot less fanfare.
Former Carolina Panther Mackenzy Bernadeau has reached a deal with the Cowboys, according to a source.
Bernadeau, 26, has 20 starts in four seasons, including 12 in 2010. He started one game last season, though he appeared in 15.
The money for Nicks was out of reach for the Cowboys. The top guard available in free agency signed a five-year, $47.5 million with the Buccaneers, making him the highest paid at his position. He got $31 million in guarantees.
The Cowboys will pay far less for Bernadeau, a 6-4, 308-pounder. He will compete with other young guards, including Bill Nagy and David Arkin. Nagy started four games before going on injured reserve with a fractured right ankle. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett called Arkin’s first season a "redshirt season."
Veterans Montrae Holland and Derrick Dockery are unrestricted free agents, though starting right guard Kyle Kosier has two years left on his deal. Holland started 10 games at left guard last season, while Dockery started two.
Many mock drafts have the Cowboys selecting Stanford guard David DeCastro with the 14th overall choice.
IRVING, Texas — Of Jason Garrett’s staff hires last winter, strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik had the longest wait.
The four-month NFL lockout eliminated the Dallas Cowboys’ offseason training program. Woicik’s primary office, the weight room at Valley Ranch, was empty until late July.
With labor peace now established, Woicik’s program will start on time in a couple of months. And the primary beneficiaries are the Cowboys’ 2011 rookies, who became professionals last summer without any offseason time in a professional setting.
Woicik has six Super Bowl rings with the Cowboys and Patriots. He knows how to physically prepare a team for a 16-game grind.
The young offensive lineman in particular need time: tackle Tyron Smith; guard Bill Nagy, who broke his ankle; and guard David Arkin, who essentially redshirted and needed to get stronger.
"It’s more of a maintenance-type situation (during the season). The offseason is really when (Woicik) gets to work," Garrett said. "We’re excited about the opportunity to have our players be with him — our older players and also our younger players because I think he has a track record of developing individual players and hopefully help develop our football team."
Montrae Holland, who was re-signed after Bill Nagy went on injured reserve with a fractured right ankle, went on injured reserve himself Monday with a partially torn left biceps. The Cowboys re-signed guard Daniel Loper, who was released last week, to take Holland’s spot on the roster.
"You can just imagine," Holland said Monday of his frustration. "It’s pretty bad. I want to be there for my teammates. Not being able to finish is something I didn’t want to happen. I just want to be there for my team."
Holland had started the past 10 games. Nagy, a rookie, started the season opener before being replaced by Derrick Dockery. But Dockery fractured his tibia and sprained his MCL against the 49ers, and Nagy returned to the lineup until he was injured against the Patriots in the fifth game of the season.
"The situation is what it is," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "You just have to get the next guy ready to play. Each guy has done a nice job stepping up and handling the situation as well as they can. …We will have to do that one more time."
Dockery will return to the starting lineup this week, according to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Dockery was inactive Saturday and rookie Kevin Kowalski replaced Holland after Holland was injured.
"It’s just about preparation, being ready," said Dockery, who is in his ninth NFL season and has made 112 starts. "I’m not a rookie. That helps out. We’re playing a really good defense. They have some good players, so you have to be on top of your game."
Kowalski has played 85 plays this season, according to Pro Football Focus, including 15 against the Eagles on Christmas Eve.
"I think I did a decent job in there," Kowalski said. "I obviously have a lot to improve on, a lot to learn from. It’s just another experience I can learn from."
Safety Danny McCray (ankle), receiver Andre Holmes (hamstring) and nose tackle Josh Brent (knee) sat out the start of practice. But linebacker DeMarcus Ware (stinger) and center Phil Costa (concussion) were back on the field.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Costa could play Saturday against the Bucs.
“We’ll see,” Garrett said. “He has had no symptoms since the ball game. We’ve gone through the protocol. He’s on schedule. He didn’t do anything the last couple of days, but we intended that right from the start. He is on schedule to be able to play if he responds here in the next couple of days.”
Still, Garrett concedes that undrafted rookie Kevin Kowalski could start. Kowalski replaced Costa against the 49ers for 19 plays after Costa injured his knee. Kowalski also played nine plays at left guard against New England after Bill Nagy fractured an ankle.
“Kowalski could start,” Garrett said. “Again, we’re monitoring here. We’ll see how he [Costa] does in practice today and tomorrow and how he responds to all his work.”
Photo courtesy: Ron T. Ennis/Star-Telegram
While quarterback Tony Romo and running back DeMarco Murray are getting all the headlines, deservedly so for their stellar play in Sunday’s blowout win against the Bills, its the improved play of the team’s offensive line that is the foundation of the Cowboys success of late.
It would be too simple, although somewhat accurate, say the improvement in the line coincided with the return of guard Montrae Holland not only to the team but to the starting lineup.
Holland replaced injured rookie Bill Nagy at left guard giving the Cowboys more bulk and experience up front which was crucial considering that team has first years starters at center and right tackle in Phil Costa and rookie top pick Tyron Smith.
But what’s also work is that the line has had chance to grow and gain some continuity and chemistry.
The Bills game featured the same offensive line playing together for the fourth straight game for the first time all season.
“When a group, any group, any position group is playing together it’s really important because you get a real good feel for each other and the communication you need to have,” coach Jason Garrett said. “There probably is no group on a football team that needs to communicate better than the offensive line. There are a lot of calls they make together and there is a lot of communication that happens right before the snap that they have to be on top of and be on the same page. And so the more times you get the chance to do that in practice and in games, hopefully you’ll get better at it.”