Lost in the doom and gloom of the Tony Romo injury and the defensive collapse against the New York Giants was the fact that a couple of other key Dallas Cowboys were injured in the game as well. While Terence Newman is likely to be a game-time decision after limited participation in practice with a rib injury, Montrae Holland (groin) and Jason Hatcher (groin) have been ruled out against the Jaguars on Sunday and could have just as much an overall effect on the Cowboys chances as the loss of Tony Romo.
With Holland out, and starter Kyle Kosier still suffering from an achilles injury, the Cowboys have decided to start rookie Phil Costa at left guard against the Jaguars according to Nick Eatman. This will be Costa's first career start yet the most alarming aspect of the decision is that Costa has had just one week of practice at the guard position in his entire pro career.
Costa, throughout training camp and the preseason, took snaps exclusively as the team's backup center to Andre Gurode. After beating out Travis Bright as the team's second center, Costa showed good instincts as a center both in calling the protections and as an effective blocker.
One theory, after Holland was injured, was that the Cowboys could move Gurode to guard (where he has experience) and put Costa in at center. This would keep Costa in a relatively safer comfort zone, yet it's obvious that the Cowboys are reluctant to have the injury affect two positions along the offensive line and would rather maintain some semblance of continuity by keeping Gurode at center.
This would make sense if Tony Romo were still the Cowboys starting quarterback. Yet backup Jon Kitna is now starting, who had extensive time working with Costa as the backup quarterback and center during the preseason and throughout practices in the season. While it's impossible for us to know exactly what comfort level exists between Kitna and Costa, it's safe to say it's likely that Kitna is much more familiar with the backup center than he is Gurode at this point.
All that being said, these are pro football players. Kitna is a veteran quarterback and Gurode -- despite his shortcomings -- is still at least an average center with significant experience under center. If neither can find a way to make their new partnership work, then there is nothing that could be done.
Wade Phillips talked with the media today and expressed concern over the change in snap counts and the differing rhythms between Tony Romo and Jon Kitna. [ESPN Dallas]
"His snap count is a little different," Phillips said of Kitna. "It bothers me a little bit in that we had some troubles with false start and those kinds of things. We had a couple in the ball game and having a new quarterback we work hard on that and trying to concentrate on that. We certainly don’t want penalties with a new quarterback and a different count everybody has to concentrate and focus more."
Rick Gosselin chatted with the readers over at the Dallas Morning News yesterday and had this to say about the decision on sticking with Kitna instead of turning to Stephen McGee:
I wouldn't punt on the season just yet. The Cowboys have lost five games -- but everyone else in the NFC has lost at least two. I see some 10-6 records winning division titles. That means 9-7 wild cards. Can the Cowboys go 8-2 the rest of the way? They certainly have the talent, even with Jon Kitna at quarterback.
If this team is 4-5 at that point, then I'd continue with Kitna. If the Cowboys are 2-7 or 1-8, then I'd start Stephen McGee at home Nov. 21 against the Detroit Lions. If you can't be good, be young.