Tag Archives: Dallas Cowboys offensive line

HOW ‘BOUT THEM WOWBOYS?: Dallas Cowboys make sure La’el Collins has his moment in the sun; Rookie’s inspirational message sends shockwaves around Cowboys Nation | The trade-bait debate | A true-blue must-see video

HOW ‘BOUT THEM WOWBOYS - Dallas Cowboys make sure La’el Collins has his moment in the sun; Rookie delivers inspirational message to Cowboys Nation - The Boys Are Back website 2015

Wow.

What else can you really say about what has happened here this week, particularly on Thursday afternoon at Valley Ranch.  Continue reading →

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UNITY UNIT UNITED: O-line is fine with current RB stables | Dallas Cowboys offensive line ready to gel with running backs | North Texas Food Bank benefit

UNITY UNIT UNITED - O-line is fine with current RB stables - Dallas Cowboys offensive line ready to gel with running backs

The Dallas Cowboys offensive line sticks together, on the field and off it.  Continue reading →

COWBOYS VS. PACKERS GAME TAPE: Silver linings among the Blues | Gameday film study

COWBOYS VS. PACKERS GAME TAPE - Silver linings among the Blues -  Packers Cowboys postgame film study - Dallas Cowboys schedule 2013 2014

IRVING, Texas – Observations from the film room at Valley Ranch:

Starts Up Front

Since the bye week, it has been remarkable how this Cowboys offensive line has come together as a group and the job they have done in these last four weeks. Where there were issues with run blocking and leaky protection in 2012, the changes at center and guard with Travis Frederick and Ronald Leary have paid off greatly.

Doug Free is once again playing at the level that we saw from him three seasons ago and Mackenzy Bernadeau has been steady on the right side working next to him.

The best player on this line and maybe best player overall on the offense is Tyron Smith

Smith is playing at an elite level, and it is getting him noticed around the league. When I have a chance to visit with scouts from around the league, it’s Smith they want to talk about. In this game against the Packers, he had the job of dealing with Clay Matthews, who was their best pass rusher. In the week leading up to the game, I was getting that vibe that these coaches were very comfortable in allowing Smith to handle Matthews without any help, and that allowed Leary, Frederick , Bernadeau and Free to focus on the other Packers defensive linemen and linebackers.

Smith was so good against Matthews, Dom Capers moved him away from Smith just to give him a shot to try and get some pressure on Romo. No matter how hard Matthews tried to rush, he could not unlock Smith, who has become a much more complete tackle against both the run and pass. 

Where this line has been outstanding as a unit is as run blockers. Against the Packers, who play with some powerful men in their base 3-4, they were able to create cracks and gaps, which DeMarco Murray took full advantage of.

To Murray’s credit, he ran the ball with some power and resolve. This line is doing a much better job of working together to secure these blocks. You are seeing more hats on hats with finish. Where this group had their issues earlier in the season, they are doing a much better job of changing or moving the line of scrimmage and giving Murray the opportunities to make the cuts that we have seen from him or just carry the ball play side.

The group has also done a quality job in pass protection. When they have had problems, it has usually come from the coordination of their responsibilities with the running backs. There have been some sacks of Romo this season where it wasn’t on the offensive line and on the backs.

The numbers on Sunday show that the offensive line gave up three sacks and two of them were on the line, but the third was due to coverage down the field. Of those two sacks, one was due to a miss by Frederick, who worked across the pocket in an effort to try and help Bernadeau, but he whiffed and it allowed Mike Daniels to get to Romo.

The next sack was a nice design by Capers when the Packers ran a twist stunt inside with Clay Matthews, and Leary was late getting over to secure the block. Romo had nowhere to go, resulting in the sack.

I thought overall, this group really did a nice job up front, and, in the second half, if Garrett and Callahan wanted to continue to run the ball, this group would have been up to the challenge of blocking this Packers front seven, without any issues.

I was surprised they didn’t attempt to do that.

The Other End

There were not many things that went right for this Cowboys defense in the second half, but one area that did was the play of George Selvie. In the build up toward this game with the Packers, I was calling for DeMarcus Ware to step up and lead this defense to victory, but it was Selvie that was the most noticeable player when I sat down and broke down the game — which was a big surprise to me.

Selvie finished the afternoon with six tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss and one quarterback hurry. Where Selvie was at his best in this games was how he was able to get off the ball. He was attacking the entire game, and his burst off the ball put him in some very good positions to make plays.

The biggest issue for Selvie this year has been dealing with teams that want to run the ball at him, because offenses feel like they can take advantage of his lighter build. Each game, Selvie is giving up an average of 40 or 50 pounds to these tackles and it is making it difficult on him.

Against the Packers, he did a much better job of holding the point attack and not allowing the ball to get over the top of him or to the edge. This was a huge improvement of what happened to him last week against the Bears, where he struggled to defeat blocks and did a poor job of defeating blocks.

If George Selvie is going to have success at defensive end for the Cowboys, this is going to be  exactly how he did it in this game — with quickness up the field, using his eyes and playing with leverage, which he was able to do.

WATERS IN THE FLOW: Bill Callahan thinks veteran Dallas Cowboys guard is ready to start

Dallas Cowboys offensive line coach Bill Callahan said RT Doug Free never strayed away from his dedication to the job - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

IRVING, Texas – Dallas Cowboys play coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Callahan didn’t want to rush Brian Waters into the lineup.

Now, after three weeks to settle into the Cowboys’ offense after a year off from football, the veteran guard and his coaches feel like he’s ready to start for the first time this year after rotating with Mackenzy Bernadeau the first three games.

“We think so,” Callahan said. “We’ll see how it goes. We’ll adjust it accordingly. We’ve got a lot of confidence in both he and Mackenzy. We’ll see how it plays out, but I think there’s been good communication along the lines of where he’s at from a strength and conditioning standpoint, also in terms of where his stamina is out. We’ll watch that carefully.”

Callahan said he wouldn’t have given Waters more than he was physically capable of handling, but he can tell the quality of play the veteran still brings to the game. The 36-year-old will continue to be monitored, but it sounds like the coaches are preparing him for a more permanent role.

That would mean Bernadeau’s role could shift around.

“I have a lot of respect for Bernadeau, in terms of what he can do,” Callahan said. “Of course, if he has to step in and play and start, he’s very capable. He’s a starter anywhere in this league. We’re utilizing him at a lot of different spots. He could be in a position to help backup at center just like he did a year ago when we lost a few guys, and of course he could play the left side as well if he needed to.”

Not every player can take more than a year off in the NFL and return and play at a high level, but if anyone’s seen it work on the line, it’s Callahan. He believes Waters, a former six-time Pro Bowler, is ready to do the same.

“Steve Wisniewski did it in Oakland, and when he came back, he was in great shape,” Callahan said. “Those guys know how to take care of their bodies. They’re Pro Bowlers for a reason. They know what their limitations are, they know that their body needs, they know how to train, they know how to prepare. They wouldn’t get to the level that they’re at as a player if they don’t have an understanding and awareness of all those other factors.”

He expected Waters’ progression to be gradual as the season began, and Bernadeau seemed to pick his play up from last year to allow the veteran guard to ease his way in. Callahan compared Waters’ situation to a lineman entering training camp.

“For the veteran lineman playing that first preseason game of 10 to 12 snaps or 14 snaps and then playing a quarter or playing a half, we believe that progression has helped him,” Callahan said. “We just didn’t want to throw him out there and force him into a situation that he wasn’t physically ready for. Now, is he mentally tough enough to do that? Sure, he could do that. But I think in all fairness to him and our team, we want him to be in the best possible condition so he can play at the highest level.”


Watch Video - Dallas Cowboys OC Bill Callahan - We Left Yards On The Field first three games - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys
Video | Audio
Callahan: We Left Yards On The Field first three weeks

Bill Callahan talks about improving their play on the road, and why the feel the offense left some yards on the field in the first three weeks.

WEEK 3 GAME BALLS: 2013 Dallas Cowboys vs. St. Louis Rams

game center - Dallas Cowboys vs. St. Louis Rams - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys

Offensive Game Ball: Offensive Line

It would be real easy to hand the ball to DeMarco Murray for his effort in this game, but without those guys up front, Murray would not have had the day that he did. Murray received his share of blame for his lack of production last week against the Chiefs, but he alone should not have shouldered the criticism. This Cowboys offensive line was outstanding today both in the run and pass. Murray had more than enough room to operate and Tony Romo was hardly touched as he sat in the pocket. Head coach Jason Garrett and his offensive staff have strived for balance, and they got it today from a line that hasn’t always been given the credit that it deserves.

Defensive Game Ball: Jason Hatcher

Going into this game, the Rams offensive line was expected to have problems handling the Cowboys defensive tackles. For the third straight game, Jason Hatcher was outstanding. For a player who had questions about staying consistent in this scheme, he has more than proved himself. Hatcher played with explosive quickness and power. He was disruptive on the move and was relentless in the way he attacked the pocket. His play did not allow Rams quarterback Sam Bradford any room to step up and make a throw. Hatcher was quick to shed blocks, and he was technique-sound the entire day. His play overall caused this Rams’ offensive scheme huge issues.

Coaches Game Ball: Rod Marinelli

The Rams were going to have trouble running the ball, which meant that defensive line coach Rod Marinelli and his troops were going to have to play the majority of the game rushing the passer. Bradford put the ball up 49 times for St. Louis with an average gain of only 3.6 yards per completion. Bradford was never comfortable in the pocket, and it started on the opening series and did not end until the final whistle. Despite playing shorthanded without Anthony Spencer, Marinelli’s group put on quite a show. There was a slot blitz or two mixed in from Orlando Scandrick, but the majority of the pressure came from a four-man rush. Marinelli has always preached quickness off the snap and to get up the field as quickly as you can. He did an outstanding job of rotating his defensive line, and they rewarded him with a dominating performance against a Rams club that has some explosive offensive weapons, totally holding them in check. Today, it started up front with his guys. 

TALKIN’ TEXAS TRENCHES: Veteran Brian Waters gives Dallas’ young linemen a solid mentor

TALKIN’ TEXAS TRENCHES - Veteran Brian Waters gives Dallas’ young linemen a solid mentor

IRVING, Texas – If the phrase “perception is reality” holds true to form, the Dallas Cowboys are certainly hoping for that in regards to their new-look offensive line.

Recently, the perception of the offensive line hasn’t been that good. In reality, they weren’t, especially in the running game.

Now, with the addition of veteran Brian Waters, who practiced for the first time today, teamed with a first-round pick at center and an emerging young guard in Ron Leary, the perception of the entire offensive line is one that is vastly improved.

The Cowboys can only hope that becomes a reality.

Vice president Stephen Jones, who is the Cowboys’ director of player personnel, said he is hopeful the offensive line will go from one of the team’s weaknesses, to possibly a strength with the added experience and depth.

“Getting Waters obviously takes it from being a big, big question mark, but from not only being a question mark on the front end, but now we’ve got good depth,” Jones said. “You take a starter in Mackenzy Bernadeau and he may ultimately be a backup here. I’m sure he’s not going to give the job away. He’s been competing well. You know what we think about Phil Costa and Jermey Parnell gives you a solid eight there. We’re pleased.” 

And that’s not something the Cowboys have been able to say about the line in the last few years – even the last few weeks. There have been several questions, ones that still haven’t been fully answered.

While Travis Frederick looks the part and has played well in the preseason, Sunday night will be his NFL debut. The same goes for Ronald Leary, who has been battling to get back from a knee scope he had in mid-August. Leary practiced in full Wednesday and said he’s “definitely” playing Sunday against the Giants. However, it’ll also be his NFL debut.

Tyron Smith has been solid at left tackle and Doug Free has played well on the right side this preseason. But he certainly benefitted from Anthony Spencer’s camp-long knee injury that often had him battling the likes of Kyle Wilber and George Selvie, instead of a 2012 Pro Bowler who had 11 sacks.

So the question marks remain along the line. And they likely won’t go away with one game – regardless if Waters plays or not. From the sound of things, the 11-year veteran is not expected to suit up against the Giants. While he practiced some early with the second-team offense, the bulk of his afternoon was spent with trainers working on his conditioning.

It appears the goal with Waters is to have him ready for Week 2, which just so happens to be in Kansas City, a place he spent the first 10 seasons of his career, earning five Pro Bowls. Waters picked up a sixth Pro Bowl trip in 2011 when he signed a one-year deal with the Patriots. Similar to this situation, Waters joined New England on Sept. 3, 2011, eight days before the opener in Miami, where he played 85 percent of the offensive snaps. Waters was able to get five practices in before that first game, compared to just three this week. So getting him ready for the Chiefs makes more sense, although the savvy veteran in Waters wouldn’t let him look that far ahead.

“I’m just going to think about the Giants right now, take it one game at a time,” Waters said (video | audio). “Obviously, I have a great amount of affection for the Kansas City program and organization, but right now our focus is on the Giants.”

Despite his experience, Waters said he can learn a lot from Frederick, who was eight years old when Waters completed his first training camp.

“I have a lot of experience, a lot of game-time experience,” Waters said. “If those guys need me, in any way, form or fashion, I think I can offer some insight on different ways to do things and different players that I’ve played against. But this center is young and smart. He’s not going to need much help from me. I’m probably going to need more help from him than he’s going to need from me.”

While Frederick seemed to appreciate the compliment, it sounded like (video | audio) he’s prepared to do the bulk of the learning in this new-formed relationship.

“I don’t think I’m teaching him anything. Really all I’m doing is helping facilitate the switching of terminology and things like that, and even at that, it’s not a whole lot,” Frederick said. “He obviously knows what he’s doing. He’s got the playbook and will have probably by (Thursday), have it all done. The things you learn from playing in the NFL for 10 years, I have no idea. But those are the things that I can learn from him, and I think those are harder to learn and they take more time and they take somebody that’s been through it all to help you if you want to get it faster than they got it or faster than it takes you 10 years down the road. I think the things that he’s teaching me are more important.”

Whether Frederick is helping Waters learn the system, or Waters is helping Frederick learn the ropes of being an NFL lineman, they’re going to lean on each other.

More importantly, they’re likely going to give this offensive line a possible edge that we haven’t seen around here in a while.

Now that would be quite a reality check.

JASON GARRETT PRESS CONFERENCE: 2013 Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants–Veteran OG Brian Waters

JASON GARRETT PRESS CONFERENCE - New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys preparation - The Boys Are Back blog 2013
Jason Garrett Press Conference 9/4/2013 (Duration – 10:44)

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett speaks to the media as his team continues their preparation for opening night with the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium. Garrett discussed:

  • Brian Waters visits on Monday and Tuesday
  • History with Brian Waters
  • Vetting Waters with film and actual workout
  • Impact of being off for a full NFL season
  • Domino effect of linemen by bringing in Waters
  • Evaluating Waters current condition at Valley Ranch
  • Competitive nature of the team’s roster spots
  • Track record of backups given playing time after earning it
  • Scouts and support staffs impact on finding viable players
  • Veteran presence will help younger players
  • Missing training camp in New England,
  • Ron Leary recovery and practice
  • Route running importance in this system
  • Spencer factors into recent defensive signings
  • Romo’s game-planning role this week

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HOLD YOUR HORSES: Veteran guard Brian Waters remains in the mix after reported workout with Dallas Cowboys

HOLD YOUR HORSES - Veteran guard Brian Waters remains in the mix after reported workout with Dallas Cowboys - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

IRVING, Texas – Veteran guard Brian Waters is apparently still in the picture for the Dallas Cowboys this year.

According to multiple reports, the club worked out Brian Waters on Tuesday and are in the process of working out a deal for the veteran guard. In fact, some reports are suggesting the deal is done.

As of Tuesday evening, the Cowboys have not confirmed Waters worked out, much less agreed to a deal.

The 36-year-old veteran, who last played in 2011 with the Patriots, likely would not be ready to play this Sunday against the Giants. However, it’s more realistic he would get himself ready to play in Week 2 against in Kansas City, where he spent the first 10 years of his career.

Waters is a six-time Pro Bowler, making five with the Chiefs and one with New England.

The Cowboys remain confident Ron Leary will be ready to start Sunday’s game with the Giants at left guard. Mackenzy Bernadeau is expected to start at right guard.

If signed, Waters would likely replace Bernadeau, who would then move to a versatile backup role at both guard and center.

And that scenario would also suggest Doug Free would get to move back to right tackle and Jermey Parnell would be the game-day swing tackle.

IN THE TRENCHES: Cowboys experimenting with Doug Free at right guard

IRVING, Texas — Dallas Cowboys starting right tackle Doug Free took some snaps at right guard in front of the media during Wednesday’s practice.
Free has never played guard in the NFL, college or high school and said the biggest challenges are “the proximity to them (defenders) and the angle to the quarterback.”

The Cowboys have a shortage of interior linemen in the late stages of training camp because of injuries to left guards Ronald Leary and Nate Livings. The team tried to sign two veteran offensive linemen and were rebuffed by Brandon Moore, who elected to retire, and Brian Waters, who didn’t accept the Cowboys’ contract offer.

There’s a chance Free will start at right guard in Saturday’s fourth preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday with Mackenzy Bernadeau getting snaps at left guard. The Cowboys are keeping Free on the right side so he can maintain a right-handed stance.

“It’s too early to tell,” Free said. “I don’t know anything.”

What the Cowboys do know is that Free can physically play the position despite a body type (6-6, 325 pounds) that is more suited for a tackle.

“This isn’t quite so, so new,” coach Jason Garrett said. “But there are differences. You play out in space more as a tackle. You play in a phone booth more as a guard. You might take more direct heat on you, guys bull rushing you more inside. So length is important to be able to keep those guys off of you. Sometimes you play against those (defensive tackles) that are up the field, length is important there. That feels a little bit playing like tackle.”

Of course, the Cowboys could also go back to Bernadeau as the starting right guard if and when Leary or Livings returns from minor knee surgeries.

“I thought Doug did a really good job moving inside,” center Travis Frederick said. “He’s such an intelligent player, been in the league for several years, just knows his way around, so it makes it pretty easy for him.

“Obviously there’s going to be a few things here and there, just the feel of how much help you’re going to get. The things I’ve talked about switching from center to guard, it’s the same from guard to tackle. You pretty much know what the guard is doing. In his case, he certainly does, and he knows what everybody is doing, so it makes it easier for him assignment-wise.”

2013 PRESEASON INJURY UPDATE: Ronald Leary to undergo arthroscopic surgery on right knee tomorrow

2013 PRESEASON INJURY UPDATE - Ronald Leary to undergo arthroscopic surgery on right knee tomorrow - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

OXNARD, Calif. – The Dallas Cowboys’ problems at the guard position have taken another hit.

Second-year pro Ron Leary is expected to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Friday, a procedure that will put his chances of playing the Sept. 8 opener against the Giants at AT&T Stadium in jeopardy.

Leary sat out of Wednesday’s walk-through practice in Oxnard, which put David Arkin running with the first-team again at left guard.

Leary had been working with the starters since he returned from a hamstring injury two weeks ago. Leary took every snap of the Aug. 5 game with the Dolphins in Canton, and also played into the second half against Oakland last week.

Fortunately for the Cowboys, the injury is to his right knee and not the left knee that scared off many teams from drafting Leary in 2012.

This injury further raises the question about the Cowboys’ interest in veteran Brian Waters. The club has reached out to the 36-year old veteran who hasn’t played since 2011. Waters, a five-time Pro Bowler apparently has interest in playing again, but doesn’t appear to be in a hurry to join a training camp.

The Cowboys tried to sign veteran Brandon Moore last week but the former New York Jet standout decided not to reunite with coach Bill Callahan and chose to stay retired.

Don’t forget about veteran Nate Livings, who also had a knee scope two weeks ago and has a shot to be ready by the start of the season.

For Saturday’s game in Arizona, the Cowboys are expected to start Arkin at left guard and Mackenzy Bernadeau on the right side.

2013 PRESEASON INJURY UPDATE: Cowboys LG Ronald Leary to have a precautionary MRI on his sore left knee

Roster Rundown - Ron Leary Might Be Ready To Compete This Year - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

Just as Ronald Leary was getting settled in at left guard with the first team, he missed today’s (Wednesday) walk-through with a sore left knee. He will undergo an MRI later, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said.

The Dallas Cowboys don’t believe Leary’s knee injury is serious, but the soreness is persisting.

“He has a knee that’s been bothering him a little bit, so he’s going to get an MRI today, and we’ll just see what it is,” Garrett said.

Several teams passed on Leary last year because of a chronic condition in the left knee called osteochondritis dissecans (os-tee-o-kohn-DRY-tis DIS-uh-kanz), a joint condition where a piece of cartilage, along with a thin layer of the bone beneath it, comes loose from the end of a bone. The joint condition brings fears that the knee won’t hold up to the pounding it will take in the NFL. The Cowboys, though, targeted Leary as an undrafted free agent from Memphis, guaranteeing him $214,000 in signing bonus and base salary in 2012.

Garrett said Leary’s current knee injury is unrelated to his degenerative disorder.

The Cowboys have high hopes for Leary and moved him into the starting lineup when Nate Livings went in for knee surgery. This could be a setback for the second-year player depending on how long he is out.

“As a general statement, we want all of our players to practice and play as much as they can, but injuries are a part of the game,” Garrett said. “We’ll see what [the MRI] looks like and move forward.”

David Arkin replaced Leary in the lineup Wednesday.

The Cowboys already were thin at the position with Livings, Kevin Kowalski (knee), Ryan Cook (back) and Ray Dominguez (shoulder) out. They tried to sign Brandon Moore last week, but he retired before reporting to camp. The Cowboys are in a holding pattern with veteran Brian Waters, who hasn’t played in the NFL since 2011. They offered the Waxahachie (Texas) resident a contract, but he has yet to commit.

CHANGING OF THE GUARD: Veteran OG Brandon Moore’s agent stating a one-year deal has been reached

dallas cowboys offensive guard mackenzy bernadeau (73) listens to offensive guard nate livings - the boys are back blog

OXNARD, Calif. – The Dallas Cowboys are expected to add another veteran guard to the equation, possibly even reaching a deal within the next 24 hours.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was asked the question following Tuesday’s practice and didn’t deny getting some interior line help.

“We’re working, doing some things on the offensive line that I think will help our depth,” Jones said. “The main thing is just stay tuned. We’re trying to do some things there.”

The leading candidate could be veteran Brandon Moore, whom the team has been in discussions with on Tuesday. In fact, multiple reports have cited his agent, stating a one-year deal has been reached. However, as of Tuesday evening, Dallas Cowboys officials said a deal has not been finalized.

Moore played four seasons for Bill Callahan with the Jets from 2008-11 and made the Pro Bowl in Callahan’s last season in New York.

Moore was picked up by the Jets after going undrafted in 2002 and played with them for 10 years through the 2012 season. He’s played in 144 games and started all but two of them during that time.

There were reports Moore would retire after the 2012 season, but that’s apparently not the case. Moore, who hasn’t missed a game since the 2004 season, will provide depth to an interior line that’s struggled to remain healthy.

Other possible additions could be Brian Waters and Geoff Hangartner.

This news comes on the same day Mackenzy Bernadeau returned to full  practice for the first time. He worked at right guard while Ron Leary continued to run with the first-team at the left side. Veteran starter Nate Livings had minor knee surgery last week and is expected to miss the next 2-3 weeks.

Jones said adding some experience to the line would be the ultimate reason for the move.

“That’s sure part of it. I think you have to recognize that you’ve got a younger, with Smith as well as potentially Parnell if he does get back, it’s younger. Bernadeau brings us some experience and so does Livings, but still, it does have to do with we’ve got a younger group there. But it will have more to do with the availability of the player that we bring in. If we bring in a veteran, it will be about him.”

RELATED: Brandon Moore, Dallas Cowboys agree on contract

CHANGING OF THE GUARD - Veteran OG Brandon Moore’s agent stating a one-year deal has been reached with the Dallas Cowboys

NFL website reports …

The Dallas Cowboys made a big move in their search for guard help Tuesday, agreeing to a one-year contract with former New York Jet Brandon Moore, a source told NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport.

Playing at close to a Pro Bowl level for the past half-decade, Moore was one of the few remaining free agents at any position capable of stepping in as an immediate upgrade. He drew interest from the Detroit Lions and Miami Dolphins early in free agency, but his reported $3 million to $4 million asking price apparently scared away those teams.

The 10-year veteran had made it clear he had no intention of retiring at age 33, and it’s understandable that he’d only come back and risk a serious injury if a team made it worth his while. Evidently, the Cowboys did.

With veteran guards Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau on the shelf with injuries, Dallas is the ideal fit for Moore.

DON’T WRITE HIM OFF, JUST YET: Doug Free spent the spring putting in time for training despite the uncertainty about his future

DON’T WRITE HIM OFF, JUST YET - Doug Free spent the spring putting in time for training despite the uncertainty about his future - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

IRVING, Texas – The question of whether Doug Free will be a Dallas Cowboy has mercifully been answered – what about the question of what to do with him?

Free agreed to a new, smaller contract last week after an offseason of speculation brought on by a forgettable 2012 season. The former $8 million offensive tackle severely underplayed his four-year contract from 2010 after a move to the right side of the line, and the result was an uncertain few months of contract re-negotiation.

Throughout that time period – a rare case of an offensive lineman being a team’s most-discussed asset – offensive line coach Bill Callahan said Free never strayed away from his dedication to the job. The 29-year-old spent the spring reporting to Valley Ranch and putting in time for training despite the uncertainty about his future.

“I’m really proud of the way Doug has handled everything that has transpired in the offseason,” Callahan said. “He’s been very positive, he’s been forthcoming, he’s been hard working and he’s not let the business side affect the playing side, which I think has been tremendous, so in that regard I just have the utmost respect.”

That much has been made evident by Free’s presence at events like the Reliant Home Run Derby and last week’s Cowboys annual golf social. Even in the midst of speculation about his future, Free made enthusiastic team appearances alongside team favorites like Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray and Sean Lee.

Dallas Cowboys offensive line coach Bill Callahan said RT Doug Free never strayed away from his dedication to the job - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

“I’m proud of what he’s accomplished, to maintain his focus and still go out and practice and work and keep his focus as a pro just speaks volumes for me,” Callahan said.

It will be interesting to see how that professionalism translates to the playing field. Free is the logical starter at right tackle for 2013 at this point, although it’s important to remember that he was basically platooning with backup Jermey Parnell by the tail end of last season. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett touched on that when discussing his excitement at bringing Free back.

“We were rotating those guys in almost series by series,” Garrett. “Doug ended up playing a lot more snaps each game than Jermey did, but I really think that was a positive situation for both guys and for our football team. Jermey responded well to it, and Doug responded well to it.”

That seems to be applicable all over the offensive line, as the Cowboys boast plenty of depth but not many established starters. Returning a veteran like Free to the competition is something Callahan said should benefit the line in the long run.

“We like the fact that everyone has been here in this system for at least two years now,” he said. “(Continuity) is important but we also want to make sure we have the right guys playing. We like how the progress has gone so far and I’ve been encouraged by what I’ve seen.”

Free should probably be considered the favorite to retain his old role at the outset of training camp. But it’s clear from the coaches that his presence is a valuable one regardless – especially at his new discounted value.

“He’s a veteran player,” Garrett said. “He’s been a good player for us on the left side and the right side, and he’s got some position flex. He’s smart. He’s a leader.”

BLIP ON THE RADAR: The least sexy article you’ll read today; but one worth remembering

SOPHOMORE MAKES LEAP - Dallas Cowboys OG Ronald Leary catches Garrett's eye at minicamp - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

Ronald Leary – He threw a couple of guys around this past weekend as if they were Pop Warners.

He looks strong as bull.

Built like one of those top-loading deep freezers.

He’s quiet, but seems quite serious about this game of football.

And to most out there, he’s a forgotten man, and understandably.

But around here, when so many want to throw jab after jab at the Cowboys for failing to do enough this offseason to improve their offensive line, they must snicker quietly to themselves. They know better. They know they’ve got a real shot at multiple upgrades to the interior of this offensive line.

Sure, the Cowboys went out of their way to select an offensive lineman in the first round, center/guard Travis Frederick, the real irony of this draft since one and all wanted the Cowboys to concentrate on offensive linemen, some suggesting to do so with the first three picks. And then when they made doubly sure to draft at least one high-quality offensive lineman, they were chastised for trading down to do so.

Can’t win sometimes.

Roster Rundown - Ron Leary Might Be Ready To Compete This Year - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

Ronald Leary.

Yep, him again. He’s still here, hasn’t gone anywhere.

You remember him, right? The rookie free-agent offensive lineman the Cowboys signed last year out of Memphis that owner Jerry Jones just couldn’t wait to tell everyone how excited he was over the acquisition. And I know what you are thinking, and probably were thinking: Why so excited about some rookie free agent? Why, the guy didn’t even get drafted.

Well, I’m sure back in the day there were similar reactions to the rather innocuous rookie free-agent signings of Tony Romo and Miles Austin. Sometimes these guys entering the league as rookie free agents do make it. Some big. (Also see Bill Bates, Mark Tuinei, Nate Newton, Everson Walls, to name a few, and those guys were passed over when the NFL Draft was 12 rounds.) Granted, the odds are long, understood.

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INSIDE THE HELMET: Tyron Smith’s generosity turns to family battles over money

dallas cowboys ot tyron smith moving to left side - the boys are back blog

For the first time, in an hour-long interview with The Dallas Morning News, Dallas Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith opened up to share his cautionary tale about how money changes people and how greed can run rampant around NFL players who become instant millionaires. Smith’s story is a must-read for any college football player drafted last month. Here are some of the more stunning revelations from Smith’s interview with DMN Cowboys beat writer Brandon George.

MORE, MORE, MORE

Smith, the first offensive lineman selected in 2011 when the Cowboys drafted him ninth overall out of USC, signed a four-year, $12.5 million contract. He gave his family a substantial amount of money, agreeing to pay his parents in four installments. But Smith’s stepfather, Roy Pinkney, his mother, Frankie Pinkney, and some of his siblings kept coming back for more.

“There was a certain amount I agreed to give them, but it went way beyond that and I was just like, ‘I’m done,’” Smith said. “I feel like I shouldn’t have given them so much. There was nothing wrong with helping them out and making sure they were taken care of, but not something to where they live the same lifestyle as you.”

HARRASSMENT PROMPTS 911 CALL

On the final weekend of October last year, while Smith was at the Cowboys’ team hotel preparing for a Sunday afternoon home game against the Giants, two of Smith’s sisters showed up from California unannounced at his North Dallas home, leading his girlfriend Leigh Costa to dial 911. According to a Dallas police report, the sisters were there to “harass and torment” him “in the pursuit of collecting financial gain.”

And it wasn’t the first time some of Smith’s family had shown up in Dallas and left in fury.

PHYSICAL THREATS RESULT IN RESTRAINING ORDER

Last October, John Schorsch — Smith’s Dallas-based attorney at the time — said Smith’s “mom and/or the stepdad threatened the physical well-being of Tyron and the life of his girlfriend.” Smith filed a protective order against his parents last summer to keep them from having any contact with him. The order also prohibits contact from Smith’s parents through his siblings.

During training camp last year in Oxnard, Calif., one of Smith’s brothers whom he said he hadn’t talked to “in a long time” showed up and had to be removed from the facility.

MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION

Six months ago, Schorsch said Smith’s family had not only continually demanded money from Smith but also took more than $1 million from him.

During a phone interview with The News last October, Frankie Pinkney strongly denied the family took any of Smith’s money without his authorization or harassed or threatened him in any way.

Smith said that when the money went missing, he was using a financial adviser his parents had recommended before the draft.

“There was money missing, but I just don’t know where it went,” Smith said. “There were times I would check my statements and it wouldn’t make sense and I hadn’t authorized it at all. I just felt betrayed and I was like, ‘Who can I trust?’”

Continued …

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ROSTER RESOLUTION: Dallas Cowboys right tackle Doug Free agrees to pay cut (updated)

dallas cowboys right tackle doug free - the boys are back blog

Dallas Cowboys right tackle Doug Free has agreed to a pay cut that will allow him to remain with the team.

Free’s new deal calls for him to receive $7 million over two years, but only his $3.5 million salary in 2013 is guaranteed.

Free was scheduled to make $7 million in 2013 as part of the four-year, $32 million contract he signed in 2011.

Free struggled out of the gate last season, prompting the Cowboys to force him to split time with Jeremy Parnell.

RELATED: Tackle Doug Free agrees to pay cut to stay with Cowboys

dallas cowboys rt doug free 2012 - the boys are back blog

The impasse between the Dallas Cowboys and maligned left tackle Doug Free is over.

Free will remain with the Cowboys as he has agreed to a pay cut as part of a new two-year contract that will pay him $7 million in 2013 and 2014, per multiple sources.

Only his $3.5 million salary in 2013 is guaranteed making it essentially a one-year deal.

Free was scheduled to make $7 million in 2013 as part of a four-year, $32 million deal he signed in 2011.

He has started 48 games with the Cowboys  but struggled mightily last season _ so much so that he forced to share snaps with Jeremy Parnell.

The Cowboys have been clear that they wanted Free to return to the team in 2013 and continue to compete with Parnell at right tackle. But they were also clear that they weren’t going to pay him $7 million to do so.

If Free hadn’t agreed to a pay cut, he would have been released.

In the end both sides got something out of deal as it was unlikely Free would have gotten $3.5 million guaranteed for next season on the free agent market, especially at this late date.

The Cowboys were able to clear salary room to so they could possibly pursue other free agents or even give one of their players a contract extension.

RELATED: Doug Free reworks contract to stay with Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys right tackle Doug Free agrees to a revised contact - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

The Doug Free saga is over.

The right tackle has agreed to a substantial pay decrease in his final two seasons to remain with the Dallas Cowboys.

Free was scheduled to make $15 million in base salary over the next two seasons — $7 million in 2013 and $8 million next season. That total has been reduced to a total of $7 million, meaning the offensive linemen will make $3.5 million in base salary in each of the next two seasons.

The $7 million figure this season made Free the league’s highest paid right tackle. This restructured contract falls in line with the current market.

Tyson Clabo, the former right tackle from Atlanta who graded out much higher than Free last season, signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract with Miami earlier this month.

The Cowboys had kicked the tires on Clabo along with right tackle Eric Winston in free agency in case a deal could not be reached with Free. The club held the threat of a post June 1 cut over Free’s head. But the longer this dragged on, the more clear it became that the Cowboys preferred to keep Free and avoid the salary cap hit that would have been forced to absorb in 2014 by releasing him.

Free gave up seven sacks and was hit with 13 penalties last season. His grades in the run game were poor and he finished the season splitting snaps with Jermey Parnell.

RELATED ROSTER NEWS:

Dallas Cowboys sign defensive end Anthony Hargrove

In other news, Dallas signed defensive end Anthony Hargrove, who missed last season because of an eight-game NFL-imposed suspension for his role in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal.

To make room for Hargrove on the 90-man roster, the Cowboys cut recently signed guard D.J. Hall, a Texas State product.

Editors comment: Click HERE for more information on this signing.

HEALTHY AND MOTIVATED: Phil Costa and Mackenzy Bernadeau ready to compete for 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys roster spots

dallas cowboys center phil costa returns - the boys are back blog

The Dallas Cowboys drafted a guy to take Phil Costa’s job at center. But that is not going to make him unfriendly toward him, Costa said.

“You don’t get anywhere by being a certain way as an older guy to a younger guy,” Costa said during the team’s annual golf tournament for sponsors. “You’ve got to treat everybody with respect and as a teammate, and especially a guy who’s in the O-line room. We take our group serious, and we’re a tight-knit group.”

Costa said he has met Travis Frederick, the Wisconsin center taken by the Cowboys with their first-round pick last month, and “he seems like a great guy.”

Costa said he remembers the way he was treated when he got to the Cowboys as an undrafted player in 2010.

“I was with Kyle Kosier, Andre Gurode, Marc Colombo, and all those guys were good to me,” he said. “They taught me a lot, taught me how to be. And I appreciated that.”

Besides, Costa said, the competition will make him better.

“I came into the league, every day was a fight, and still every day is a fight,” he said. “I look at it, it’s a competition, a challenge. I think competition really brings out the best in everyone, which Coach has talked a lot about with our team.”

Costa said he is fully recovered from the broken ankle that ended his season last year in the Carolina game.

“It was supposed to be a four- to six-month recovery,” he said. “I was pretty much 100 percent right at the four-month mark, maybe a little before.”

He said he had doubts, naturally.

“I guess you never really know how an injury’s going to heal up,” he said. “Literally every day, I have the mentality, ‘Win the day,’ whether it’s with an injury or football. Just putting everything together to get 100 percent.”

RELATED: Mackenzy Bernadeau entering second year with Cowboys

dallas cowboys center kevin kowalski (60) and dallas cowboys guard mackenzy bernadeau (73) during warmups - the boys are back blog

Mackenzy Bernadeau (#73, right) did not exactly have a year to remember in 2012, the first year of his four-year, $11 million free agent deal with the Dallas Cowboys.

He was hurt in the offseason, got healthy in time to start all 16 games, but he was inconsistent – good some games, plain bad in others. At one point, offensive line coach Bill Callahan had to tell him directly his job was in danger.

But he ended the season with the Cowboys confident in him, and now he enters his second year with the Cowboys confident in himself and healthier.

“This offseason, obviously, it’s a lot better,” he said. “Just being able to be here now and not miss many things, being able to be in camp as early as possible, when we start getting going with the rest of the team, helps build that continuity with the guys on the line.”

Bernadeau said he had shoulder surgery in January for an injury that happened in the Cleveland game (Week 11). He said it didn’t excuse his poor play, but that he can feel the improvement since it has been repaired.

“It’s one of those things you can play with, but to be in the weight room and train the way you want to, you have to have it fixed,” he said.

Bernadeau said he and defensive end DeMarcus Ware, who had similar shoulder surgery, are doing many of the same treatments and rehab work together.

Bernadeau, who missed OTAs last year because of hip and knee injuries (which are fine now), said the team will still take it easy with him as OTAs begin next week.

“We’ll do it week by week, see how I feel,” he said. “We don’t want to have any setbacks. Might play it safe, depending on how I feel.”

SETTING THE BAR: Doug Free’s price tag should hinge on incentives or escalators

dallas cowboys right tackle doug free - the boys are back blog

IRVING, Texas – Whether Doug Free is a member of the Dallas Cowboys in 2013 or not, Baltimore might have come up with the price tag on whoever plays right tackle for the club this season.

The Ravens re-signed left tackle Bryant McKinnie to a two-year deal worth a maximum of $7 million, according to The Baltimore Sun. The maximum part of the deal comes in at a $3.5 million if he hits on incentives or escalators in the deal, so the actual average of the deal is less than that.

The Cowboys can use the McKinnie deal in their discussions about a pay cut for Free or in potential talks with unsigned vets Eric Winston or Max Starks (or any other semi-legitimate tackle available now). None of them are going to play worse than Free did in early 2012.

If we are to believe Stephen Jones, then Free is the Cowboys’ top choice to play right tackle in 2013. He knows the offense and should be better in the second year under offensive coordinator/line coach Bill Callahan. He played better in the final month of last season when he split time with Jermey Parnell.

Parnell’s only start came at left tackle on Thanksgiving when Tyron Smith was hurt and unable to play because of a short week of preparation. Over the last few weeks, the Cowboys – well, Jerry and Stephen Jones at least – have made it clear that it is time they start using younger players sooner, the way other teams across the league do.

The Cowboys picked up Parnell off New Orleans’ practice squad in 2010 but he was inactive for the 12 games he was on the Cowboys’ roster. In 2011, he played in six games but never took significant snaps.

The Cowboys gave him a $1 million signing bonus before the 2012 draft, hoping he could continue to develop from basketball player at Ole Miss to tackle in the NFL. He was active for every game last season but struggled early in the year when he was asked to play as the No. 3 tight end in short-yardage and goal line situations.

The Cowboys lived with Free’s struggles for the first 12 games before finally relenting and putting Parnell at right tackle on every other series.

Free is scheduled to make $7 million this year. Clearly the Cowboys will not pay that and Free has to know there is not another team in the league that will pay him that. The question is whether he would be willing to take a cut to $3 million or so. The Cowboys’ question is whether they would offer Free a chance to earn back some of the money through incentives.

Winston is on record he is seeking $3-4 million to play. If that’s the case, then that’s too rich for the Cowboys and most likely a lot of teams. But McKinnie’s deal would seem to help the Cowboys get their price on whoever they want to play right tackle this season.

DALLAS COWBOYS BREAK: Team options when it comes to right tackle Doug Free

VIDEO - The Draft Show with Bryan Broaddus and Ed Cahill - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

Cowboys Break: What To Do With Free? (Click HERE to play video or listen)

Join Bryan Broaddus and Ed Cahill as they discuss the Dallas Cowboys options when it comes to Doug Free in the coming weeks. (Duration – 59:56)

TRENCHED IN HISTORY: Dallas Cowboys Offensive linemen

Rayfield Wright - HS

BEST

Rayfield Wright, Fort Valley State

1967, seventh round (No. 182 overall)

Wright’s career as an offensive lineman landed him in the Hall of Fame. It’s an honor that would have been impossible to predict from his start.

The Cowboys bounced Wright between tight end, tackle and defensive end during his first three years in the league before establishing him at right tackle. Once there he became a fixture with six consecutive Pro Bowl selections. Wright was named All-Pro four times and earned a spot on the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 1970s.

51644347JR099_Cwby_Bengl

Larry Allen, Sonoma State

1994, second round (No. 46 overall)

He is the second Cowboys offensive lineman to earn a bust in Canton and will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame later this year.

Allen is arguably the most dominant lineman of his era. His 10 Pro Bowl appearances with the Cowboys is the most of any offensive player in club history. Allen was named to the Pro Bowl as a right guard, a left tackle and a left guard, something no one else has done.

Herb Scott - Dallas Cowboys - The Boys Are Back blog

Honorable mention: Herb Scott (13th round, 1975), Mark Stepnoski (third round, 1989), Erick Williams (third round, 1991), Flozell Adams (second round, 1998).

WORST

Howard Richards, Missouri

1981, first round (No. 26 overall)

Until Tyron Smith with the ninth overall pick was selected in 2011, this was the last time the Cowboys have used a first-round pick on an offensive lineman. Richards was primarily a backup for five of his six seasons with the Cowboys. He started 16 games during a disappointing, injury-prone career.

Robert Shaw, Tennessee

1979, first round (No. 27 overall)

This is the first time the Cowboys used a first round pick on an offensive lineman. Shaw began his career backing up John Fitzgerald at center and showed promise. But two months deep into his third season, a season that saw the only three starts of his career, Shaw blew out his right knee in a loss to San Francisco. He tried to come back for 20 months but was never able to pass his physical and retired.

FOR PETE’S SAKE: Dallas Cowboys make first offseason cut

Dallas Cowboys running backs coach Skip Peete terminated - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys running backs coach Skip Peete has been relieved of his duties by coach Jason Garrett and will not return for the 2013 season.

Peete, who had been with the Cowboys since 2007, was informed in a meeting with Garrett Monday.

According to a source, Peete was surprised by the move, given the injuries to running backs DeMarco Murray the past two seasons that limited his effectiveness, and the struggles on the offensive line to open holes for the running game.

The Cowboys set a team record for fewest rushing yards in a 16-game season in 2012 with just 1,265.

Murray, who missed six games with a sprained foot, rushed for 663 yards, the lowest for a Cowboys leading rusher in 23 years. Felix Jones was ineffective in Murray’s place but his presence and production should land more at the foot of owner Jerry Jones than Peete.

A disappointed Garrett hinted at changes with the running game in his press conference after the season-ending loss to the Redskins.

“We have to do a better job running the football,’’ Garrett said. “DeMarco Murray was out for a large portion of this season, but having said that, you have to put the next guy in there and you have to be effective running it.

“It just helps your football team. It helps your offensive line, it helps your quarterback, it helps your defense. That’s something that we’ve tried to do and we weren’t as effective as we needed to be.

“We have to make a commitment to being better next year.’’

Peete may be the first change but he may not be the only staff move in 2013.

Special teams coach Joe DeCammilis interviewed for Bears head coaching job on Saturday. And even if he doesn’t get the Bears job, he could be in line for a lateral move to another team. The Cowboys blocked a potential move by DeCammilis to the Raiders last season.

The Cowboys have yet to rule on the future of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

TOUGH-LOVE AT THE RANCH: Dallas Cowboys need a new voice to bend Romo’s ear

Dallas Cowboys Valley Ranch sign - The Boys Are Back blog

A week later, and not a creature was stirring at Valley Ranch, not even Jerry.

Reports from the Irving compound say it was an uneasy week, which would have been the case anyway after another end-of-season failure, but uncertainty about the future added greatly to the negative fog.

Jerry would be button-popping proud, if he had been hanging around, to witness, yes, an "uncomfortable" bunch of football people.

When Mr. Jones declared he was placing Valley Ranch on "uncomfortable" lockdown, and said "change" was coming, some of us laughed. Well, OK, I laughed anyway. This man loves and promotes the country club atmosphere for his football team, and now, suddenly, he’s going Vince Lombardi on us?

But my paycheck doesn’t have Jerry’s signature on it, so laughing comes easy. For those, however, who draw paychecks from Mr. Jones, they are sweating the fact that this time — yes, this time — Jerry might be serious about "changes."

Whatever, Jerry has already achieved his declaration that "uncomfortable" would prevail. And since Jerry wasn’t in sight at Valley Ranch by the end of the week, that added to the agony of waiting.

The guess from here, and I’d say it’s a good guess, is Jerry is dug in, maybe at his duck hunting lodge in Arkansas, and working the phone lines nonstop, calling his long-standing list of priority "advisers."

That would include such names as Gibbs, Holmgren, Switzer, Wolf (Ron, the former Green Bay GM), and surprisingly enough, even Parcells and, yes, Johnson, as in Jimmy.

Due to a little verbal dust-up in early November between Jimmy and Jerry, it’s not certain Jones will be making that particular call this time.

But if so, it’s already a fact that Jimmy would deliver a message that Jerry has heard before from him. And so has Jason Garrett.

I’d call that message the No. 1 priority of the off-season: Hire an offensive coordinator and play-caller, while making Garrett the head coach only.

And this is really not about Garrett. It’s about Tony Romo.

Over the last six years, Tony has had only one offensive guru, confidante, adviser and friend.

That’s Garrett.

Most quarterbacks, due to the nature of the job, need all that.

What Tony also needs, however, is a guy who will scream at him when a scream is necessary. Say, oh, maybe like halftime in Washington last week.

We all know Tony is a good quarterback who also screws up at the worst possible time. Garrett gives him love. But at this point, Tony needs to hear some screaming.

Besides, what can that kind of change actually hurt? It’s not like you’d be attempting to fix what’s not broke.

I was talking to an NFL guy last week about quarterbacks in general, and Romo in particular.

His praise, by the way, for Romo was immense, and this was just 72 hours after the meltdown against the Redskins.

The Romo defenders — I’ve long been one, but there’s some serious backsliding at the moment — will agree totally with what this guy had to say. Even the Romo haters will have to concede he has a good point.

"There might be 10 to 12 teams out there who don’t need Romo, but there’s close to 20 that would take him in a minute," he said. "He’s good. But he’s not good enough to do what the Cowboys have to ask him to do.

"Tony has to win every game for that team. I’m not kidding. This season he had to win every game. You couldn’t count on the defense to steal you a game. You couldn’t count on the running game to bail him out.

"Tony had to win every game. Even Aikman, even Montana, didn’t have to win every game. Tony got on that roll in November and December and he was winning every game. But the law of averages said it would catch up with him.

"In Washington the other night, it caught up with him."

This guy’s bottom line was the Cowboys have got to get better around Romo. Much better. We all agree with that. That’s just common sense.

But as this particular NFL voice added, "Tony can also make some of the damndest mistakes. He makes bad throws that leave you stunned. I like him, but when asked to do so much, he does have his history of screwing it up."

Would a different offensive voice from a coaching standpoint change that? Maybe not, but what’s wrong with giving it a try?

On the topic of NFL quarterbacks, the name Philip Rivers came up while talking to the NFL guy. The last two seasons, Rivers had been awful. And even while Rivers adamantly defended head coach Norv Turner, when heads rolled last week, it was Norv’s neck that took the hit.

"See, the difference between Romo and Rivers is that Rivers cannot move in the pocket at all," said the guy. "Romo is one of the best at avoiding the rush. Over the last couple of years, teams blitzed Rivers like crazy.

"In the past, you could blitz Rivers, and he had a tight end, a receiver, a running back he could get the ball to, and Rivers made you pay for the blitz. But look what Rivers now plays with. His best weapons all left in free agency and went down with injuries. The front office made some decisions that really backfired.

"Romo, however, has the weapons to beat the blitz. Witten, the emergence of Dez, and the running back, Murray. Tony should have eaten the Redskins alive with all the blitzing they did. Instead, three picks happened."

Let’s not blame that on Garrett, the game-plan man and the play-caller. But would a different voice in Romo’s ear make a difference?

And the name of this new guy, if there is one? I don’t have a name. Norv is out there. Jimmy would tell Jerry to hire Norv, we know that. But a guy in San Diego told me this week that Norv has already been contacted by at least 10 teams to be the new offensive coordinator.

Certainly, Norv is in no rush to make a decision. He can basically pick and choose.

But if Jerry is really going to make good on his making a "change," the No. 1 priority has to be …

OK, there are many priorities. I’ve got my No. 1. Jerry, meanwhile, is polling his "advisers."

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UNDER THE KNIFE: Dallas Cowboys starting center Phil Costa has ankle surgery

Dallas Cowboys center Phil Costa returns - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys center Phil Costa went into this season as the starter, but he was in that role for only 130 snaps this season. Injuries ruined Costa’s season.

Dallas Cowboys center Phil Costa injured vs. Carolina Panthers - The Boys Are Back blog

Costa said he had surgery last week to repair ligament damage in his right ankle. He dislocated the ankle in the second quarter of the team’s Oct. 21 game at Carolina and was inactive for six games before the Cowboys placed him on season-ending injured reserve.

Costa’s season got off to an inauspicious start when he injured his back in training camp. He started the season opener against the Giants but left after reinjuring his back on the third play from scrimmage. Costa missed three games with the back injury.

"Durability is an issue, and that hasn’t been something in my career that’s been a problem," Costa said. "Never missed a game in high school, never missed a game in college for that. First few years in the league, I was healthy. Just an issue that’s here. It’s something that I’ll overcome, but it was frustrating."

Costa said the goal is to be healthy enough to return for organized team activities this spring.

IN THE TRENCHES: Doug Free, Jermey Parnell respond well to rotation at right tackle

Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap (96) gets called for a facemask as he sacks Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo - The Boys Are Back blog

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Doug Free (68) and Jermey Parnell (78) responded well to a rotation at right tackle. They alternated series Sunday in the win against the Bengals.

After Free played the first series, Parnell came in at right tackle for the second series. It became clear when Free was not receiving treatment for an injury and came back in for the third series that the Cowboys were trying to work in Parnell.

“Well, we just wanted to give Jermey a chance,” Garrett said. “He has done a good job. He played a few weeks ago when Tyron was out and showed that he can play in this league. We tried to give him some snaps in practice. He responded well to that. Doug responded well to it.”

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) passes to Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant vs Cincinnati Bengals 2012 - The Boys Are Back blog

The NFL report said Free played 58 snaps and Parnell played 15, plus four on special teams.

Parnell played without a penalty, as he did in the Thanksgiving Day start against Washington at left tackle in place of Tyron Smith. Free had one holding penalty in the Bengals game.

“So we just felt like in that situation, it was justified,” Garrett said. “We started Doug. Then we put Jermey in there, and we kept that rotation going throughout the ballgame.”

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