Dallas Cowboys UDFAs And Roster Battles: Offensive Linemen

For the past three years, the Dallas Cowboys have carried 10 offensive linemen on their roster. Care to take a guess how many of the offensive lineman on the 2010 opening day roster are currently still signed with the Cowboys?

Two. Doug Free and Phil Costa. That is quite a churn in a position group that probably values continuity more than any other position group, as the Patriots' Matt Light remarked a while back:

"The obvious part is the familiarity," Light said. "It's not impossible, but it's a heck of a learning curve trying to get used to playing next to another guy and all the mistakes that come with that. When you've been able to keep a group together, you are able to get through camp so much easier. You're able to install things quicker."

It's still too early to say who the starters on the Cowboys offensive line will be this year. But it's fairly certain that the line will look significantly different from the 2010 line, and last year's line as well. As it should.

Garrett loves competition at every position, and the O-line is no different. The Cowboys have brought in six undrafted free agents to challenge the incumbents this year, and chances are good that one or two of them could make the roster. Follow us after the break as we look at the six UDFAs.

Earlier in the week, our own rabblerouser took a stab at illustrating what the current depth chart for the Cowboys could look like.

POS Starter Backup
LT Tyron Smith Jermey Parnell
LG Nate Livings Bill Nagy
OC Phil Costa Kevin Kowalski
RG Mackenzie Bernadeau
David Arkin
RT Doug Free Jermey Parnell

Because Jermey Parnell is manning both backup tackle spots, the Cowboys currently only have 9 O-linemen on their depth chart. That means at least one spot is up for grabs for one of the UDFAs, and don't be surprised if one of the incumbent interior linemen is displaced by an UDFA as well.

What the Cowboys are looking for, even more from their backups than from their starters, is positional flexibility, or "Multiplicity" as the Cowboys have started calling it. The ability to play two or more positions along the line will be a definite plus for any candidate. With that in mind, let's look at the six UDFA offensive linemen, starting with their measurables:

POS Name School Ht Wt Hand Arm Wing 40 yard BP BJ VJ 20s 3Cn
OT Jeff Adams Columbia 6-6 308 10 33 3/4 81 1/2 5.18 19 9'5" - - 4.7 7.31
OG Ronald Leary Memphis 6-2 7/8 315 8 5/8 34 3/4 82 7/8 5.28 30 8'8" 29.0 4.91 7.89
OT Levy Adcock Oklahoma State 6-5 1/2 320 9 1/2 33 80 1/8 5.22 26 9'0" 27.5 4.84 7.62
OG Taylor Dever Notre Dame 6-5 1/4 300 9 1/8 31 5/8 79 5.41 19 8'9" 28.0 4.71 7.49
OG Harland Gunn Miami 6-2 319 9 5/8 32 79 7/8 5.26 28 8'3" 23.5 4.95 8.28
OT Tyrone Novikoff Idaho 6-6 5/8 316 10 1/8 32 75 3/4 5.46 33 8'3" - - 4.81 7.97

Ronald Leary, OT/OG, Memphis

The 6-foot-3, 315 pound Leary was brought in to Valley Ranch for a pre-draft visit and offensive line coach Bill Callahan also had a private workout with Leary in late March in Memphis. Reports are that during the draft, the Cowboys were discussing taking Leary as high as the fifth round. But the Cowboys gambled he would go undrafted as other teams were scared off by what looked like a player with a degenerative knee issue. For now, that gamble has paid off.

The Cowboys employ some of the best knee- and joint specialists in the country, and coupled with Mike Woicik's pre-habbing process, the Cowboys are guardedly optimistic about Leary's future with the team. They are certainly optimistic about his short-term prospects and believe he can step in almost immediately.

Leary played most of his college career at left tackle, and only moved to guard for the last six games of the 2011 season. That is both a good indication that he has enough athleticism to play inside, but also that he has the coveted "multiplicity" the Cowboy are looking for.

At Memphis, he was a second-team All Conference USA selection in 2011 and was recognized as the Co-MVP of the team, not an everyday award for an offensive lineman. There is a good chance Leary makes the roster, as the Cowboys coaches thought Leary might be one of "the readiest of any [drafted] offensive linemen", according to Jerry Jones.

Jeff Adams, OT, Columbia

Jeff Adams anchored the Columbia Lions at left tackle for the past three years, and earned first-team all-Ivy League honors for all three seasons. He was named a third-team All-American by the Associated Press. He's described as a very smart and motivated player with a professional work ethic.

The level of competition he faced in college was not elite and that may be one reason why Adams wasn't invited to the Combine. Adams is not an NFL-ready prospect and will need time to develop: he will need to bulk up, get stronger and work on his technique. But the thing that stands out about Adams is that he has the size to play in the NFL. The Chicago native measures in at 6-foot-6 and 308 pounds and has an impressive arm length and wingspan.

Adams is easily the most athletic of all the UDFA prospects, and some of his results from the Northwestern Pro Day are better than those of most offensive linemen at the Combine: His 9'5" broad jump would have been the second best value among all linemen; his 5.18 40-time would rank him seventh among the 55 Combine linemen, and his 7.31 3-cone drill would have ranked him second behind David DeCastro (7.30) and ahead of Matt Kalil (7.33).

With these measurements, Adams is a very interesting developmental project for the Cowboys, if they are willing to invest the time to improve his technique and give him a full year of strength and conditioning under Mike Woicik. Pro Football Weekly believes that Adams has "intriguing developmental potential".

Levy Adcock, OT, Oklahoma State

Adcock originally attended Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College before transferring to Oklahoma State in 2009. His first year there was spent mostly on special teams with occasional spot duty as the 4th tight end. He became a starter in 2010, played both tackle positions, did not allow a single sack in 2010 and was a unanimous First-Team All-Big 12 selection that year. In 2011, Adcock started every game at right tackle, allowed only two sacks, was a consensus first-team All-American and was among the candidates for Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the year.

Adcock has a lot of pass protection experience from Oklahoma State's spread system. The spread system suited the plus-sized defender: his above-average athleticism, quick feet and mobility in tight spaces were a big plus for Adcock at Oklahoma State. But where he truly excels is as a power blocker in the run game, that's probably what got the Cowboys interested in him.

Adcock still has a lot of work ahead of him, but as the National Football Post points out he can be quite a dominant blocker.

Does his best work in the run game where he can really coil up into his stance, keep his base down, back flat -even from a three point stance- and really looks explosive coming off the football. Generates a real snap through hips into contact, gains leverage off the ball and extends his arms well at the point. Can create an initial surge off the football as an in-line guy with the power through his hands to stick and drive his man down the field. Absolutely can dominate when blocking down inside and can take defensive lineman right out of the play.

Pro Football Weekly projects Adcock as a guard who can "draw interest from power-running teams that value size", an assessment shared by the National Football Post: "Looks like a guy who is ideally suited to play right tackle, but I could see him being effective as a guard."

Adcock has played a high level of competition in the Big 12, and judging by the accolades he's received, he was pretty dominant against that competition, and two sacks given up in two years is pretty impressive any way you look at it. Adcock is also one of the reasons Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon led one of the nation's most prolific passing attacks. There's not much tape on Adcock specifically, but you only need to look for a Brandon Weeden highlight reel and watch #73 Adcock at either tackle spot to get a feeling for the guy. Here's a highlight video of OSU vs Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl in which Adcock plays left tackle for the first three quarters and then moves to RT for the fourth.

Adcock has to get in better overall better shape if he is to succeed; his body type is more that of a guard than that of a tackle, and his body may have been one reason Adcock went undrafted even though there were quite a few estimates that he had fourth round potential.

Overall, he has enough size/strength to contribute quickly as a guard, and offers the potential to perhaps play right tackle at some point. If Adcock comes into camp in good to great shape, he has a strong chance of making the team, in part because he gives the Cowboys what they covet so much: 'multiplicity' as a potential swing guard and tackle.

The good news is that he's already lost his mullet, which makes him look 20 pounds lighter and 20 IQ points smarter.

Taylor Dever, OG, Notre Dame

Dever hails from Notre Dame, where he served as the backup to Sam Young at right tackle over the first three years of his Notre Dame career. Sam Young was drafted by the Cowboys in the sixth round of the 2010 draft but never played an offensive snap. In the 2011 training camp, Young was "beaten repeatedly by charging defenders in practice", prompting his release.

Dever is very quick (short shuttle, 3-cone) but not very fast and not very strong. And if he couldn't beat out Sam Young in college, his chances of making the roster in Dallas are slim to none. The NFL draft advisory board shares that assessment, writing that Dever "could be years away from being able to compete on game days", as does the National Football Post:

Impression: A big kid from a top school and should get invited to an NFL camp, but I don't see him making a roster.

Harland Gunn, OG, Miami

Coming out of high school in Omaha, Gunn was rated the nation's No. 8 center by Rivals.com, the sixth best guard and the 63rd best player overall by Scout.com. The 6-2, 319-pound Gunn was heavily recruited and eventually signed with Miami, but not before being heavily recruited by Nebraska and their then head coach - wait for it - Bill Callahan, who is now the offensive line coach in Dallas.

Gunn had been in to see Nebraska a few times, and the Huskers even offered Gunn a scholarship at the time, but he decided to go to Miami. And it looks like Bill Callahan never forgot him.

In retrospect, it was not a good time to be a player at the U, and Gunn had to weather a stormy path that included four different head coaches, financial hardships and player suspensions. Over the last two years at the U, Gunn started in all 25 games and last year allowed zero sacks and recorded zero penalties against for the entire season while playing at left guard. Gunn does not stand out as a particularly athletic lineman - his short shuttle and 3-cone times in particular are not very impressive, but he makes up for that in strength:

Gunn is hands down the strongest and most powerful player on UM's football team. Strength and conditioning coach Andreu Swasey said Gunn owns the highest marks on both squat (600 pounds-plus) and bench press (500-plus). "I think [defensive end] Olivier Vernon might be the only one who has [Gunn] on the power clean," Swasey said Wednesday.


Read more here: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/umiami/2011/11/harland-gunn-aiming-to-re-power-canes-offensive-line-running-game.html#storylink=cpy

And his coaches at Miami appear to have taken their description of Gunn straight out of the RKG textbook:

Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said. "He's a solid, strong, high character, high work ethic, lunch pail guy. He's a true blue collar approach to offensive line play. He'll fit in great for the rest of his life playing offensive line. They love those type guys in the NFL."

Offensive line coach Art Kehoe said Gunn's style of play reminds him of former Hurricanes K.C. Jones and Claude Jones.

"He's explosive man," Kehoe said. "I'm trying to get him a little more functional, a little more loose on his hips so he can use better footwork. But man, I like the way he plays. I like the way he pulls. He's a terrific person. He's almost a better person than he is a player. And he's a hell of a player."


Read more here: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/umiami/2011/11/harland-gunn-aiming-to-re-power-canes-offensive-line-running-game.html#storylink=cpy
Read more here: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/umiami/2009/07/top-60-countdown-no-49-ol-harland-gunn.html#storylink=cpy

Unfortunately for Gunn, despite being a solid starter at Miami, at 6-2 1/4 he's perceived to be quite undersized for an interior lineman. Three other linemen in this year's draft though, whose names we've thrown around a lot on BTB this year, are also 6-2 or even shorter: Philip Blake (6-2 3/4), Ben Jones (6-2 5/8) and David Molk (6-0 7/8). All are centers. Could Gunn be an option as a backup to both guard and center? Again, that would give the Cowboys the 'multiplicity' they are looking for.

Tyrone Novikoff, OG/OT, Idaho

Tyrone Novikoff started all 25 games for the Vandals during the last two seasons, bringing his college total to 46. Novikoff was a 2011 team captain during his senior season in Idaho and brings some positional versatility in that he played guard and tackle in college.

He's tall, but he has short arms. He has big hands, but only a small wingspan. He's strong but not particularly explosive. And he's not very fast.

Here's what SI.com has on him.

Positives: Big blocking prospect with marginal upside. Stays square, gets his hands into opponents and keeps defenders away. Gives effort until the whistle blows. Flashes quickness in his game.

Negatives: Rumbles around the field, struggles to adjust and ineffective in motion. Gets tall in his blocking, which negates his size.

Analysis: Novikoff is a developmental offensive right tackle prospect who must improve his fundamentals and playing strength to have any chance of making an NFL roster.

Novikoff was a member of a University of Idaho student group that spent their spring break in the hurricane battered gulf region to participate in a week-long clean-up/construction effort and in 2010 was nominated to the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team. For what it's worth, that makes Novikoff the Right Kind of Guy.

The one thing we shouldn't forget about all of these guys is that they all went undrafted for a reason. It'll be a struggle for each and every one of them to make the practice squad, much less to make the team. But while the odds may be long, it looks like each of the six guys will at least work extremely hard to try to make the team. And ultimately, that is what being a RKG is all about: having the work ethic and the discipline to put in the work required to be successful, even if you don't have the greatest body, the greatest talent or the greatest measurables.

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