When the phase "Day-to-Day" is used by head coaches in football, it always gets my attention. The Dallas Cowboys will once again opening training camp much like they did in 2012 with two offensive linemen sitting out the first practice with injuries.
Starting left guard Nate Livings (foot) and the man he is competing with for that spot, Ronald Leary (calf) will miss the first practice when the squad takes the field on Sunday here in Oxnard. For Livings, it has been a difficult offseason where he has had to deal with knee issues which caused him to miss several practices.
On the other side, Leary had taken advantage of both Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau missing time with the first offensive line. Leary was able to get work on both the left and right side which gave the front office and coaches the confidence that he was ready to compete for the job after a season of spending time on the practice squad and working with the scout team. Leary was making progress with the mental side of the game which appeared to be the most significant thing that was holding him back.
For an offensive line that shouldered the blame for the inability to run the ball with any consistency, this is clearly not the way this group wanted to start out. There are other positions on the squad where you can work around injuries in camp and still function well but the offensive line is not one of those.
With the commitment to Travis Frederick as a rookie center, he needs to spend as many reps as he can with Livings, Bernadeau and Leary, because these are the guys that are going to play when they line up against the Giants on opening night. Frederick needs to feel as comfortable as possible with these guys but they also need to feel right with him. In this zone scheme, there is a feel that these linemen develop of how they work together. When Frederick takes a hard step front side, he has to know that if his man goes away, that Nate Livings will be there to cut him off. How Livings takes his steps is different than Leary or Bernadeau, even though they are trying to execute the same block.
In the opening press conference, Jason Garrett said that Travis Frederick would start out as the center and when the opportunity presented itself, he would get some reps at guard. The way I believe that practice will open on Sunday is that David Arkin will be the starter at left guard, with Frederick at center and Bernadeau on the right side. Kevin Kowalski should be the swing guy at both spots. I do not anticipate that Phil Costa will see any work at guard because the coaches like to use bulk inside at that spot but look for him to get plenty of work at center.
Both Livings and Leary met with the medical staff today as they went through their physical and from my experience in these situations, the staff will look at how they move around on Sunday and get a better gage then what they need to accomplish before heading back on the field.
For Leary, the calf injury always makes me nervous especially with the offensive line because how they have to push off and use their lower body for leverage so this can be a serious injury. The last thing this club needs is their offensive line dealing with injuries right out of the gate after what they went through last season. There are so many things that need to be right for this team to have success and the offensive line is at the top of that list. Being "Day-to-Day" never gives me a great deal of confidence because of the unknown associated with it. This staff hopes that it's just more like a day.