Star Magazine: The Thinking On The O-line … Continuity

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The author of "America's Team: The Official History of the Dallas Cowboys," Jeff also writes a new column each week in Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine and co-hosts the "On Air with Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine" podcast. For subscription information, please click here.

  • In the hours and days following the season-ending loss to the Redskins, my singular offseason focus was the offensive line. And here we are, four months removed, and there's only been one addition, first-round pick Travis Frederick. Certainly was hoping for and expected more. Would have used another draft pick on a guard, maybe signed a right tackle. Many options, all of which have been explored numerous times over. At this point, though, the reality is, those are not happening.
  • Never thought Doug Free would be returning. As in never, ever, ever, better chance of the Cowboys signing Terrell Owens. Or Jesse Owens. As of here and now, though, appears Free will be returning, albeit with a pay cut. With Tyson Clabo signing with Miami, the options are pretty limited. Eric Winston is still out there, but know the Cowboys felt Clabo was the better of the two. Also, Winston has been released twice in the last 14 months, so let's not make him out to be Anthony Munoz.
  • Here's the thinking of offensive line coach Bill Callahan and the front office. One word: Continuity. Ask any line coach – and this is going back to the 1950s, maybe earlier – what is the most crucial element to success, and they will say continuity. Thus, the objective of bringing the group back with the addition of Frederick.
  • So let's break this down position by position: Think Frederick is the center from the first day of training camp. There is some talk that for this season at least, Phil Costa will play center with Frederick at guard. Don't see that happening. The Cowboys drafted Frederick to play center. He was far and away the top center on their board. There is no reason for him to play guard. Also, he's smart and should have no trouble with the blocking calls, which should alleviate some of that responsibility off Tony Romo, thus allowing quicker snaps at the line, which has been an issue the last three or four seasons.
  • Two more quick tidbits on Frederick: Assistant director of player personnel Tom Ciskowski told us on the "On Air" podcast last week that center was the second-most important position on the line after left tackle. This surprised me, but it explains why the Cowboys took one in the first round. Also, Callahan has enjoyed a lot of success in his career with elite centers, most recently perennial All-Pro Nick Mangold of the Jets. Also Barret Robbins with the Raiders.
  • The guards are going to be Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau, both of whom were signed last offseason at the urging of Callahan. Neither was great in 2012, both battled with injuries, too. However, interesting to note that while ProFootballFocus.com rated Livings as the team's top lineman and Bernadeau as its worst, the Cowboys actually graded Bernadeau higher. So there's that.
  • Tyron Smith should be dramatically improved at left tackle. The progress was obvious last season. In the first five games, he was called for eight penalties against just three his final 10 contests. And in his first seven games, he allowed 19 QB hurries and two sacks against just 18 hurries and one lone sack his final eight games. Not a huge difference, but noticeable.
  • And now we come to right tackle. Yeah, there's still a chance the Cowboys sign someone, but am thinking it's going to be an open camp battle between Free and Jermey Parnell. Not saying it's ideal, but it is what it is. Worth noting that Free played exceptionally better the final three games of the season when he was rotating possessions with Parnell. He didn't allow a single hurry or sack and wasn't called for a penalty in 125 snaps over that stretch.
  • So why should we believe the line will be improved? Frederick should be an upgrade at center, and there's the continuity. Not saying it's the easiest of sells, but Callahan is among the most respected line coaches in the league, so at this point, have to trust his judgment. Also worth noting, the Cowboys are going to tweak their offense for more quick passes, much like the New England Patriots. This should help protect Romo somewhat, taking some pressure off the line in pass protection. [embedded_ad]
  • Barring a last-second stunner, it appears the earliest Cowboys Stadium could land a second Super Bowl would be February 2019 for LIII. Those Roman numerals look strange, huh? Every Super Bowl of my lifetime has involved an X. Anyhow, certainly looks like San Francisco's new stadium will host L in 2016 followed by Houston. Can't fathom the state of Texas hosting back-to-back, so am guessing Miami for LII, assuming the city has worked out who is paying for the stadium renovations within the next year or so.
  • Now, by no means is 2019 a lock. Am 100 percent absolutely, positively certain Cowboys Stadium will host a second Super Bowl in the next decade, by 2023. Know the goal is to become part of the cycle, with New Orleans, Miami and seemingly Glendale, Ariz., at this point. And that could happen in time. For now, though, it's about landing the second and hoping it doesn't snow.
  • For me, the upset of all upsets, talking the Miracle on Ice here, is that Cowboys Stadium will celebrate its fourth anniversary later this month and it's still named Cowboys Stadium. Have mentioned this more or less on an annual basis and am told it won't be the case for much longer, but sure enough, here we are, four years in.
  • Can assure one and all that Romo cutting back on his offseason golf isn't going to make an iota of difference in his play this season or going forward. One of those decisions that is more window dressing that substantial. Also, let's be realistic about this, it's not like he's the first father with a young child who is cutting back on golf. Am hoping no rational-thinking Cowboys fan has ever blamed an interception or poor decision on Romo's golfing. Almost every quarterback in the league golfs in the offseason.
  • The team's rookie minicamp takes place this weekend, beginning Friday actually. Am looking forward to seeing the draft class on the field for the first time, although of course it's impossible to gauge all that much before training camp. Am also intrigued by undrafted free agent Brandon Magee, a linebacker from Arizona State. Some thought he'd be a fourth-round pick, and many teams had him graded as such, including Dallas. He fell for a variety of reasons, size, possibly an injured elbow in a bowl game, and the fact he's under contract with the Boston Red Sox.
  • Magee can play both SAM and WILL and will obviously be expected to contribute on special teams. He's a superb athlete, has been drafted by three Major League Baseball teams and has played in the College World Series twice. Thing is, he wants to play football. He loves football. Always a fan of guys who love the game rather than are just playing because they're good at it. There's a big difference.
  • Would be surprised if Magee wasn't on the roster for the season opener against the Giants.

Follow Jeff Sullivan on Twitter, @SullyBaldHead, or email him at jsullivan@dallascowboys.net.

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