IRVING, Texas – It says a lot about Travis Frederick's rookie campaign that absolutely no one is talking about him.
On a team with no shortage of question marks and position battles, the second-year center is a non-issue and a solidified starter on what is suddenly a fearsome offensive line. As the Cowboys gear up for their June minicamp, Frederick appears to have established veteran status in just 13 months.
Frederick said he hasn't reached that point. Consider his surroundings, though – his new neighbor in the locker room is rookie and fellow first-round pick Zack Martin – and it's clear he's come a long way.
"I don't feel like a grizzled vet – I feel like I'm not as much of a rookie. I know what's going on. It's the same adjustments I was talking about with Zack – you know what's next, you know how to handle what's going on," Frederick said. "So that's going to help you, in turn, focus on the little things. In general, you know what the concepts are and things, so you can really focus on the techniques and getting better at the smaller things."
With the basic concepts under control, Frederick said he's using Organized Team Activities to improve on those details. That includes footwork and vision – even the minute details of hand placement in blocking at the NFL level.
"In college, it's just about getting it done. If you're strong, you have a better opportunity, because no matter where you grab, usually you can just hold on," he said. "But in the NFL, obviously with the great talent we play against – and even here in practice, with the talent we play against every day – you really have to focus on where you're placing your hands. An inch can really make a huge difference."
Perhaps most importantly, and most famously for his position, Frederick said he wants to improve his communication skills. Centers are often credited for being the quarterback of the offensive line, making calls and adjusting assignments depending on the defense's movements. If all goes according to plan, Frederick said he doesn't just want to help the line's workload, but his quarterback's, as well.
"I'm going to try and do as much as I can to take as much as I can off Tony that he was doing before for the offensive line," he said. "Not necessarily because I was a rookie or this or that, but because, if I can see it better, that's going to take one thing off his plate and that's going to help the team as a whole."
That process began as early as last year, when Romo and Frederick began working together in training camp. With a season under their belts, though, Frederick said he's able to tailor his calls to Romo's liking and preferences. Romo's limited availability during OTAs hasn't stopped that, as Frederick said the two have put in plenty of time with tape.
"He obviously is a very smart player. I'm just doing what I can to try and get better and hopefully take a little bit off his plate. And that also is hopefully going to help with our group," he said. "The more I can communicate, the better Zack's going to be able to do, the better Tyron is going to be able to do, the better Doug's going to be able to do. When that happens, everybody can move faster and play faster – they don't have to think as much." [embedded_ad]
That could be crucial for a group that has high expectations on it for the first time in years. The Cowboys' line paved the way for a 1,000-yard rusher and sent a player to the Pro Bowl in Frederick's rookie year – feats the offense are expected to build off of.
Not that there isn't speculation about what exactly that group will look like. The drafting of Martin shakes up the outlook at guard, with either Ronald Leary or Mackenzy Bernadeau likely to take a backseat. The No. 16 overall pick could possibly even play at tackle in place of Doug Free, creating plenty of questions to be answered in training camp.
"No matter who's there, whether it's Mack or Ron or Zack, no matter who's in we're going to work to get better, we're going to work to be a better group," Frederick said. "Because what it really comes down to is the best group."
There's an important distinction in that comment, though, as Frederick gets set for his second campaign. However many questions there might be about the makeup of the offensive line, there aren't any about who'll be calling their huddle.