(Editor's Note: This is the sixth of a 12-part series analyzing every position on the Cowboys' roster, providing a quick look back before addressing the needs of each spot on the field and how it can be improved heading into the 2013 season. Today we examine the guards and centers.)
Pressing Matters:The Cowboys have some decisions to make in the middle of the line, particularly at the guard spot. Both Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings are under contract for next season, but that might not stop the Cowboys from seeking upgrades, especially through the draft. If the Cowboys were to part ways with one of the veterans, it'd make more sense to keep Bernadeau, who has more position flexibility at center. In fact, the Cowboys might try to work with him at center in the offseason as a possible competition for Ryan Cook, Phil Costa or anyone else in the mix. More than anything, the Cowboys have to figure out the smartest ways to get better in the middle of the line without spending excess dollars on players who won't be starting.
2012 Evaluation: It's not the easiest of positions to evaluate, based off the injuries and roster changes that occurred from the start of training camp. The team was never really healthy at center throughout the year. Phil Costa had a back injury that plagued him the first two months of the season. He returns in Baltimore to have the best game of his career, and then injures his ankle and misses the rest of the season. The trade for Cook proved to be a great move by the Cowboys, who relied on the veteran center for most of the year. At guard, it's safe to say Livings and Bernadeau didn't live up to the expectations the Cowboys had when they signed them both in free agency. Once the team started to build continuity later in the season, the guard play was better. Still, it's a position the Cowboys can certainly improve upon in 2013.
Need More From … : This team needs more from Bernadeau. And having him healthy for the entire offseason will be a big start. Last year, Bernadeau had hip surgery not long after the club signed him in free agency. That absence in the summer spilled over to training camp and once he was finally healthy, Bernadeau was thrown in there, trying to learn the offense, get adjusted to the new players around him and shake the rust from being out so long. He did get better as the season wore on, but if the Cowboys are going to keep him in the mix, they need more consistency out of him.
Upgrades Needed:There aren't many positions where the Cowboys can't use an upgrade, and the middle of the line is no exception. Guard? Center? Try both. The Cowboys will enter free agency and the draft looking for improvements there. While they have players to fill if no one is signed, they won't be turning away guards because Livings and Bernadeau are under contract. And they certainly won't be overlooking centers because Costa is expected to return from injury and Kevin Kowalski has shown some promise, too. The Cowboys need to get better at all three interior positions and expect them to be aggressive in those attempts.
Mackenzy Bernadeau – Got off to a slow start, thanks mostly to the offseason injury. Played better down the stretch and has versatility to play guard.
Nate Livings – Not exactly what the Cowboys were hoping for. He did have some moments when he played well, but an upgrade could be in order.
Phil Costa – Played about a game and a half. When healthy, he was good, but two injuries cut his season down dramatically. He'll get healthy and be in the mix but will likely have to compete for a starting job.
Ryan Cook – A key acquisition by the Cowboys before the season. Where would they have been without him? Nothing flashy, but his veteran experience was needed.
Derrick Dockery – Didn't play much and wasn't that effective when out there. His experience and readiness to play were assets. It's likely he will move on once again.
Kevin Kowalski – He has got some potential and can play two spots. Did a nice job of getting himself ready to play after coming off PUP list.
David Arkin – The Cowboys have made it clear they want him around next year. But, they were also clear they didn't want to play him. He's probably a center only and will need to keep working at that spot.
Ron Leary – Didn't meet the lofty expectations the Cowboys had for him to start the season, but he improved on the practice squad and will likely compete for playing time next year.
Ray Dominguez – Recently added on the reserved/future list. Will have to work his way up from the bottom the depth chart.
Bryant Broaddus on the Cowboys' guard/center situation:
There are those of you reading this are not going to like what I am about the say, but it is my honest view: Nate Livings was not a better player than Mackenzy Bernadeau. I know there a lot of people think that was the case but it's not true.…… (to read more, click here)