fourth-round draft choice David Arkin, inactive all 16 games, and the seventh-rounder Bill Nagy, a four-game starter before landing on season-ending injured reserve; last year's 16-game starting center as a first-year free agent Phil Costa and his rookie free-agent backup Kevin Kowalski.
"I'm very pleased with how we've addressed the interior of our offense," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said while recording the next edition of The Blitz (11 p.m. Sunday on CBS-11 locally), referencing the guard-center positions along with fullback.
And don't get the idea the only candidates at the center position are Costa and Kowalski. A lot of what happens at center might be determined by who ends up winning the starting two guard spots since the likes of Bernadeau, Nagy and even Livings are considered center possibilities.
Also, don't summarily dismiss Arkin winning a starting guard spot just because he never got on the field last year. The Cowboys still think highly of him since a full year in the weight room should do wonders for him. Also, do not throw Costa to the scrap heap just because he struggled some early in his first opportunity to play center in the NFL or that he scattered those shotgun snaps, turning Tony Romo into more of a goalie than a quarterback at times. He improved as the season went along.
"He's another one of those guys who came in last season and earned that position," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said of Costa. "He's an undrafted free agent two years ago, undersized guy – too this, too that, too much the other thing, but he just said, 'Hey, I'm a good football player,' and tried to show us that every day. ... I think he's an under-appreciated athlete."
One of those "too's" Garrett is referring to is "small," as in too small to play center in the NFL. Funny, though, as we stood talking to Costa Wednesday out at Cowboys Golf Club the thought occurred to me that the former Maryland starting center, who played all of four games his rookie season in 2010 before inheriting last year's starting job, didn't appear any smaller than when Cowboys three-time Pro Bowl center Mark Stepnoski arrived here in 1989. Heck, looked bigger to me.
I mean, the Cowboys finished the season last year with Costa checking in at 6-3, 314. Stepnoski was checking in at 6-2, 265 his rookie season, and heading into his fourth year with the Cowboys in 1992 was no heavier than 270. Difference was, Step had the likes of the hefty Nate Newton (320, listed weight) and Kevin Gogan (317) sandwiching him, then a guy by the name of Derek "Big Baby" Kennard, who checked in at 333. Yep, a rather "Big Baby."
Costa, well he started last season with 299-pound rookie Bill Nagy starting to his left and the foot-plagued Kyle Kosier at 309 to the right. So the Cowboys had an undersized center, so to speak, flanked by even more undersized guards. Bad combination.
That will likely change this year since Livings is 332, Bernadeau is 310 and Leary 324. Plus, guarantee you Arkin will check in closer to 320 than his 310 of last year, and Nagy likely at least 310.
Size does matter on the interior of the offensive line.
So will younger legs. Just two years ago, by the 2010 season's end, the Cowboys were starting four 32-year-old offensive linemen and 26-year old Doug Free. However the starting five works out this year, Livings potentially would be the oldest at 30, and Tryon Smith the youngest, having just turned 21 in December of his rookie season last year. Everyone else? Well, in between, including sixth-year tackle Doug Free, the next oldest, however you cut it, who is 28.
Thus the remaking of the Dallas Cowboys offensive line, a process that doesn't necessarily require drafting a whole bunch of first-rounders. Take the Giants for example. Their starting five in Super Bowl XLVI consisted of David Diehl, a fifth-rounder starting more than five games in a season for the first time; Kevin Boothe, a Raiders' sixth-round pick in 2006 that the Giants claimed on waivers in 2007; David Bass, a Niners' second-rounder in 2005 signed as a free agent in 2011; Chris Snee, a Giants' second-rounder in 2004; and Kareem McKenzie, a Jets' third-rounder in 2001, who signed as a free agent by the Giants in 2005 and has not been re-signed for 2012 after 11 seasons in the