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61) Is Having Position Flexibility Always a Good Thing?


As the Cowboys focus on the offseason, training camp is still in sight.

Coming off two straight 8-8 seasons and three full seasons removed from the playoffs, the Cowboys have plenty of question marks surrounding them as they prepare for the 2013 season.

As we count down the days to camp, the writers of will take a different question each day that is hovering over this team.

With 61 days until the Cowboys take the field in Oxnard, Calif., today's question centers on the versatility of the team's offensive linemen: 

61) Is position flexibility always a good thing?

"Position flex" is one of Jason Garrett's absolute favorite idioms. As recently as Tuesday afternoon, the Cowboys head coach used it in relation to the re-signing of right tackle Doug Free, who agreed to a pay cut last week.

"He's a guy who is a veteran player. He's been a good player for us on the left side and the right side, and he's got some position flex," Garrett said. 

That's a line you'll hear often if you listen to interviews about Cowboys blockers. Phil Costa, Travis Frederick, Ryan Cook, Kevin Kowalski and Mackenzy Bernadeau are capable of playing both center and guard. Both Free and Tyron Smith have spent time at the left and rick tackle spots, with Smith looking like the likely anchor on the left side.

So in the event of another injury-depleted season, the Cowboys certainly have some flexibility if they need to mix and match with their offensive front.

But to what extent is that a benefit? It's nice to know you're covered in event of an injury. But what if the Cowboys' offensive linemen are all jacks of all trades, but masters of none, so to speak? We saw plenty of shuffling around during 2012, but it didn't exactly inspire a ton of confidence.

Smith is probably the closest thing to a sure-starter heading into training camp, and even he had issues last season. Free quite clearly dealt with his share of problems, hence the pay cut. And so on and so on. [embedded_ad]

The Cowboys definitely have a wide pool of versatile offensive linemen to pick from, there's no doubt. But at what point do you stop worrying about how many positions they can play, and instead worry about how well they can play one position? We'll have some idea when we see what the starting five looks like.

Sticking with our numerical journey to training camp, let's take a closer look at the number 61 

  • No surprise that the Cowboys' best No. 61 would be a guard, Nate Newton. The Orlando, Fla., native spent two years as a tackle in the USFL before signing on with the Cowboys, where he switched to the interior. It paid dividends, as Newton started 180 of 198 total games, made six Pro Bowls (including four in a row) and won three Super Bowl rings.
  • Troy Aikman finished with a career completion percentage of 61.5 after a 12 year stint in Dallas. That's impressive enough in its own right, without mentioning the three championships.
  • This should probably go in the running for most obscure stat in football: Kelvin Martin's 61 fair catches during his seven-year Cowboy career is second only to Patrick Crayton, who had 69.
  • Last year's rushing touchdown total of eight was ghastly, but it's not quite as bad as the 1961 total of six – tied for a franchise worst.
  • Another reminder of how bad things were when this franchise first started: Cowboys opponents in 1961 set a franchise record by gaining 589 yards on interception returns. Another franchise record: five different interceptions by Cowboys quarterbacks were returned for touchdowns by the opposition.
  • 1961, the team's second season, was a marked improvement on its inaugural 0-11-1 campaign. The Cowboys went 4-9-1, though all of the wins came in the first seven weeks of the season. Dallas went 1-4-1 against the now-familiar trio of Washington, New York and Philadelphia. The lone win came on the road against the Giants; the tie was a 28-28 thriller against the Redskins.
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