More Than NYG Pass Rush, O-Line Facing Continuity Concerns

IRVING, Texas – When the Cowboys signed veteran guards Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings just three days apart back in mid-March, there was an expectation of the offensive line would look this year.

From left to right, it was supposed to be Tyron Smith, Nate Livings, Phil Costa, Mackenzy Bernadeau and then Doug Free – after the Cowboys also decided to swap tackles Smith and Free for this year.

So that's how it was supposed to look. But not until Saturday afternoon, a mere four days before Wednesday's much-anticipated season opener against the defending champion Giants, has it actually looked that way.

Because of injuries throughout the middle of the line, the starting five hasn't been able to work together at all in the OTAs, minicamps, training camp and four preseason games.

So they're finally ready now, but will it be enough time to get on the same page, especially with the menacing Giants' defense that features pass-rushers like Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck, along with a wave of other veterans that have made that group one of the best in the NFL?

Outside of this locker room at Valley Ranch, there might be some heavy speculation. But on the inside, they seem to be ready.

"We've got things in sync," said Bernadeau, who missed all of the offseason and two weeks into camp with a hip injury that required surgery. "There's a lot of reps we've been having. It's getting better every day. I'm just glad to have Phil (Costa) back and have everyone together so we can just get better."

The continuity seems to be the biggest question. With Costa only returning from a back injury last week, it's put a strain on those three working together. Livings missed some time with a hamstring injury that kept him out of the first two preseason games.

"They have practiced a lot recently and they have practiced together," head coach Jason Garrett said. "That's a good thing. Costa has been practicing the last 2-3 days and we feel like he's ready to play in this ballgame. Having those guys just working next to each other and communicating is really important. It's important at every position, but certainly on the offensive line. We'll continue to evaluate the status of those guys. It's nice to see them practicing together and hopefully they'll continue to grow as they progress."

Livings, who signed in free agency after spending the last four seasons in Cincinnati, doesn't seem too worried with trying to rush continuity. When asked about it, he focuses more on what he can control, which is preparing for the Giants and their pass-rush.

"When you're on the field, you're not looking at continuity," Livings said. "The one objective is getting the play right. No mental mistakes. Continuity is something that comes in time. you just focus on the play and assignment.

"It's time to go. It's that time of year. It's time to get it," Livings added. "If we're up there to play together, then let's play together. Continuity is something that comes in time. It's just about getting the job done."

And it certainly won't be an easy task, especially considering the atmosphere that is expected come Wednesday night at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands. It's the first game of the NFL's regular season and it's expected the Giants will unveil a Super Bowl banner before the game.

A crowd like that won't make it easy on the line, especially one that hasn't worked too much together and will need to figure out hand-signals and silent counts.

"It's a factor. You're not at home," Livings said. "You have to have that aspect on the road. You know what it takes and you know it's coming."

Knowing it is the first part. Being ready for it, and then handling it will be completely different. We'll find out rather quickly if the Cowboys are up for the challenge.

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