IRVING, Texas – As the Cowboys focus on the offseason, training camp is still in sight.
Coming off two straight 8-8 seasons and three full years removed from the playoffs, the Cowboys have plenty of question marks surrounding the team as they prepare for the 2013 campaign.
As we count down to camp, each day the writers of DallasCowboys.com will take a different question concerning the roster.
With 76 days until the Cowboys take the field in Oxnard, Calif., today's question revolves around the guard spots this year:
76. Will the Cowboys shift around their offensive line personnel, or will they keep their same two guards from last year?
It's been a long time since the days of John Niland, or even Flozell Adams.
The former No. 76 started at guard the same year he was drafted in 1966 and became a staple on the line, playing in Dallas until 1974. The latter No. 76 started as a guard in 1998 before embarking on an illustrious career as a tackle in Dallas through 2009.
It was clear that those two players would be starting on the line for their respective teams while they were in Dallas. The current Cowboys don't have that same luxury at the guard spots.
Apart from left tackle Tyron Smith, competition will determine the starters along the offensive line. Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings could start at guard once again. But if Phil Costa plays tremendously during training camp, it's possible he starts at center and rookie Travis Frederick moves to guard.
Another possibility is that Ronald Leary starts at guard if he stands out during the preseason after spending last year on the practice squad.
If no more moves are made, it wouldn't be surprising to see Livings and Bernadeau starting once again. But many of the candidates for starting jobs on the offensive line have position flex, and a strong offseason from any one of those players could change things up. Bernadeau could also be a candidate for the center spot, where he started two games last year.
Without a player with Niland's maneuverability or Adams' combination of size and flexibility, it's difficult to guarantee any spots along the line.
Sticking with our numerical journey to training camp, let's take a closer look at the number 76:
- Between Niland and Adams, six players wore the No. 76 jersey. Four of those were offensive linemen, including Jeff Zimmerman, who played in 34 games for the Cowboys from 1987-90.
- Don Meredith and Don Perkins joined Bob Lilly in the Cowboys' Ring of Honor during halftime ceremonies of a Nov. 7 game against the Giants in 1976. That year marked the 11th straight winning season for the Cowboys, who went 11-3 and won the NFC East title.
- The Cowboys had 21 picks in the 1976 NFL Draft, but only eight made the active roster. Among those, Tom Rafferty played 14 seasons with the Cowboys, while wide receiver Butch Johnson spent eight years with the team. None of the picks from that draft made it to a Pro Bowl. [embedded_ad]
- Defensive back Phil Clark, tight end Doug Cosbie and guard Crawford Ker are the only three players to have been selected with the 76th overall pick in Cowboys' history. Cosbie was a three-time Pro Bowl selection from 1983-85, while Ker started at guard for the Cowboys from 1986-90.