Much of the focus of this past season was on the play of the three inside players on this offensive line. It was a rough start to the season because of the time that was missed during training camp with Phil Costa and Mackenzy Bernadeau which was the last thing that they needed to happen. Then opening night Costa gets hurt again and Ryan Cook has to step in off the street to fill the void.
If you look at the position overall three different guys played center during the season, Costa, Cook and Bernadeau which is never a good situation to be in. When Bernadeau moved to center than Derrick Dockery had to make a start at right guard in the Washington game which wasn't his best effort. I am not trying to make excuses for the position but there were things happening inside that this team had to deal with as the season went on.
I have never been a huge Phil Costa fan and have always felt like he needed to be replaced but he did have one of his better games of his career in my eyes against the Ravens in handling their big inside defenders. Ryan Cook in his place was serviceable in his place but there were times where this line struggled because he wasn't able to consistently get to the second level and make a block or he wasn't able to sit down on his man and get the front of the pocket solid. Kevin Kowalski missed the first six weeks of the season on the physical unable to perform list but when he came back was never able to put himself in a position to make the coaches have the confidence to put him in the game over Cook.
This is a position that in my view still needs an upgrade. I think there needs to be a competition at the position and maybe they get this by moving Bernadeau to center because in the one opportunity he had to play the position, he was not a problem. The move would give them a bigger body inside than Costa and they could possibly draft one of these guards that I have studied that would be a solid fit on this line.
There are those of you reading this are not going to like what I am about the say but it is my honest view, Nate Livings was not a better player than Mackenzy Bernadeau and I know there a lot of people think that was the case but it's not true. I know that Bernadeau had his struggles at certain points during this season and the Tampa Bay game was one of those times but if you focus on three plays you are missing the other 65 where he did his job correctly.
I can show you plays that even the best guards in the league missed blocks. Livings and Bernadeau were far from perfect but I thought that Cook and Free struggled far more on this line. When I studied Bernadeau his problems were more with getting over extended and playing off balance but when he would punch and sit down on his man, he more than did his job. In space he was better at getting to second level blocks than Livings but both need to improve there. Where Livings had his problems was more with quickness than with power. When a defender would rush him down the middle he was fine.
What I was surprised about this season was how much he was asked to pull. I never felt like that was his real strength even on the film I studied in Cincinnati. There were times where he would pull and be a step slow not making contact to secure his man. Both guards had trouble early in the season with the twist stunts but after the Cleveland game there was improvement but again, this was more of an overall problem with the entire line.
Looking toward the 2013 season I mentioned the possibility of moving Bernadeau to center and drafting another guard which could be an option. This will be the final training camp for David Arkin if they don't see enough improvement in his technique but keep an eye out on Ronald Leary. I was hearing some positive things coming out of his work on the scout team. This will be a very important off season for him in regards of gaining strength and confidence. Linemen tend to take a little longer to develop so scouts do not want to give up on them as quickly but look for some decisions that will be made about this inside three.