OXNARD, Calif. – Pardon the pun, but it's fair to say Connor Williams was the center of attention on Sunday.
That's what happens when a longtime starter makes a position switch. In this case, the Cowboys' left guard is getting a long look at center, where he's getting a taste for running the offensive line.
"Anytime, in my history our guards always trained as centers," said Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy. "You can't have enough guys that can snap the ball. This definitely gives us more flexibility and definitely has the competition."
The competition aspect of this has been a burning question for months. After opting not to sign free agent Joe Looney in the spring, the Cowboys showed up to camp with Tyler Biadasz as their only true center. Giving Williams a chance at the position solves the riddle of where they might find some depth.
"Y'all all know how the O-Line game goes. Guy goes down every now and then, and you never make it through a whole season healthy," Williams said after Sunday's practice. "It's definitely nice to be able to move pieces in and out and have versatility. Hopefully, I never have to play center this year, but I may have to."
The coaching staff had Williams shift over to center during the two-minute portion of Sunday's practice. Given that he's started 39 games at left guard, Williams is obviously familiar with the Cowboys' offense. But giving him the opportunity to call it at a fast pace is the best way to acclimate him to the center spot.
"He knows the offense," McCarthy said. "He knows the runs checks. He knows the protections. It's just the ability to do it at full speed. The cadence variations, that's important."
This doesn't feel like a competition. Biadasz has done the vast majority of the work with the first-team offense, with both Williams and rookie Matt Farniok taking reps behind him. But seeing Williams working at a new position does help answer a lingering question about this offensive line.
To hear it from Williams, it's also going to make him a more well-rounded player.
"It's a different game, and it's a better understanding, more in-depth understanding," he said. "I'm sitting at left guard still thinking about what the center is thinking. It gives you more insight into the game."