IRVING, Texas – Three out of the five starting offensive linemen played different positions than normal this weekend to adjust for another injury-riddled start to the season on the line.
The only two who didn't were left tackle Tyron Smith and center Travis Frederick, and it should stay that way.
Head coach Jason Garrett said he wants the best five offensive linemen on the field, whatever combination that may eventually be, taking health into consideration. My hand was right in line with many others to begin the offseason, believing Phil Costa should be the starting center and Frederick a guard if Garrett wanted the best five on the field.
That stance has changed dramatically for me after watching Frederick work in training camp and the preseason at center, where he looks more the seasoned veteran than a player just learning NFL jargon at a position that requires poise and understanding.
Garrett, offensive line coach Bill Callahan and assistant offensive line coach Frank Pollack rave about how knowledgeable Frederick is. The center himself knows just how much he's progressed from the start of the year already, without playing a single meaningful game.
"I feel like I've just learned so much, even from OTAs," he said. "I'm a different player from the beginning of camp than I am now. I think it's a great opportunity. Every time I have a chance to get out here and practice, it makes me a better player."
Where he's getting those practice reps is at center, primarily.
They've moved him over to guard at times and tried a few different combinations, none of which look particularly impressive. Where he does look comfortable is at the position he's playing right now, helping a line that featured Doug Free at right guard and Jermey Parnell at right tackle rush for 154 yards against one of the best front fours in the game against Cincinnati last weekend.
The false starts on the line aren't numerous every week. The missed assignments aren't numerous, and certainly not as poor as they looked last year. Even with the rookie making line calls and anchoring the middle, he doesn't appear at all out of place and appears to be a bright spot amid all the flux. [embedded_ad]
The guard injuries are staggering this preseason, once again. Ron Leary's supposed to be back for the opener, but his knee scope still has him out. Based on his timetable for recovery, Nate Livings should be close to a return, but he hasn't been on the field at all. The one healthy starting guard, Mackenzy Bernadeau, missed practice Monday with an ankle injury.
A lack of numbers may force Frederick back to playing some guard, but that's not a scenario anyone should want to see. Nothing should impede the progress of Frederick at center, where he looks the part.
One of the players deemed a ridiculously high first-round reach by many experts may end up being one of the better offensive line selections in the draft.