IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys have less than a week now to figure out which five players will start on the offensive line and where they'll play this weekend against the Giants.
Doug Free could be at right guard or right tackle. Ron Leary might be healthy enough to start at left guard, and if he's not, maybe Free rotates inside and Jermey Parnell takes the field at right tackle. Mackenzy Bernadeau could be the left or right guard, depending on the situation and his health.
Regardless of the combination, the few definite starters on the line and running back DeMarco Murray are confident the Cowboys can figure out how to be effective offensively.
"I have a tremendous amount of faith," Murray said. "They're great guys, one of the hardest working groups on our team. Coach Frank (Pollack), Coach (Bill) Callahan do a great job with those guys. They'll be ready come Sunday."
The Cowboys went with Tyron Smith at left tackle, Leary at left guard, Travis Frederick at center, Bernadeau at right guard and Free at right tackle when the majority of the group was healthy. After Leary went down, the Cowboys tried a variety of combinations, including Free on the inside at guard and the Parnell at right tackle.
Leary is still recovering from offseason knee surgery and could be ready to go this weekend.
"You have to deal with what the situation is, and he really did a nice job for us in the spring when he was healthy," said head coach Jason Garrett. "In training camp, he did a nice job, played well in the games. We feel very confident about him. But, again, we have to get him healthy and practicing. We will see if we can do that over the next couple of days."
The lack of continuity can be tough to deal with for any lineman in the group, but especially for a rookie about to experience his first real taste of the NFL against a division opponent.
Frederick said he's leaned on the veterans as much as he can as he gets accustomed to the different combinations of players around him. He sought them out when he learned the offense to begin with, and now he's leaning on them to game plan against a familiar foe.
"I feel pretty good about the group," Frederick said. "There's been some injuries, there have been people switching in and out, but I think everyone's handled that very well. I think that it's a testament to the way that everybody in the group works and the intelligence of everybody in that group. I think the coaches do a really good job of making sure that people know what they're doing when they're switching in and out, and that's only going to help us later on in the season."
Frederick has the luxury of knowing it's highly unlikely he'll be moving from his typical position at center this weekend. The same can't be said for Free, who could be playing either position on the right side of the line.
"There's going to be combinations of guys that haven't played next to each other, guys who haven't played in a while, this, that, who knows exactly what's all going to unfold," Free said. "It's going to be a little bit of an issue, but the main thing is that I think all of us have been together for a while and hopefully we'll be able to do a real good job out there."