The hits; they just keep on coming.
Already depleted by the injury bug, the Cowboys have seen a position of moderate concern become the center of attention over the first two weeks of training camp. After suffering a rash of injuries that ravaged the depth at the center position, Dallas lost it's last man standing during Friday's practice when starter Phil Costa left practice with a twinge in his back. In response, the team will workout former Eagles center Jamaal Jackson on Monday, per Clarence Hill, Jr. of the Ft. Worth Star Telegram.
Although the staff and front office did not immediately think Costa's back was going to be a long-term issue, it only magnified the streak of bad luck the club has had at the postion. It appears that major disaster was averted, as the MRI didn't reveal a serious injury.
The good news for the Cowboys is that a magnetic resonance imaging exam on Costa came back negative for any thing serious or longterm. Owner Jerry Jones said there were no disc issues and believes Costa will be back on the practice field next week."
I don’t see Costa out next week at all," Jones said. "The real question for me is will we play him Monday.
We will see how it goes since its not disc and the MRI looked good relative to that. Then we will see how it goes."
The Cowboys chose not to pursue a veteran starting center to compete with Costa in the offseason. When they signed free agent guard Mackenzy Bernadeau in the spring, they envisioned him providing competition for at least a backup role along with returning Yuglies Bill Nagy and Kevin Kowalski. Hip and knee surgery took Bernadeau out of the running until this week, and ankle injuries have taken the latter two out of the mix. The club has had to rely on red-shirt guard David Arkin, UDFA guard Harland Gunn and OT Pat McQuistan to provide snaps to the quarterback group for most of the offseason. To say it has been adventurous would be the mildest understatement of training camp.
Arkin will start the preseason's first game on Monday night as Dallas travels up the Pacific Coast from Oxnard to Oakland. Jackson is expected to meet with the team before they hit the road on Sunday and if he is in shape, could start practicing on Wednesday of next week.
Although Costa is not expected to miss significant time, the move to add depth to the position seems obvious. Cowboys owner/GM Jerry Jones revealed on Friday that he feels Bill Nagy will be out for the entire year. Nagy is traveling to North Carolina next week to see a foot and ankle specialist and surgery for his high ankle sprain is expected to be the call. Head coach Jason Garrett attempted to back off of Jones' dire assessment until they hear back from the specialist.
It has been extremely difficult for the Cowboys to achieve offensive cohesion during camp practice with the myriad of snap issues that have popped up since the rash of injuries. Whether or not he ends up challenging Costa for the starting job, the veteran Jackson should at least allow Dallas to conduct a full compliment of their plays as they start to ramp up preparation for the regular season.
Jackson spent his entire career in Philadelphia with the Eagles. Drafted in 2005, he has played in 88 NFL games, starting 72 of them. He had started 71 straight games when he tore his ACL near the end of the 2009 season. He returned well ahead of schedule to help the Eagles shaky line to open the 2010 season as a guard, only to tear his triceps in the second quarter of their opening game and miss the rest of the season. The Eagles replaced him with sixth-round pick Jason Kelce in 2011 and Jackson saw limited duty as a substitute.
Jackson was released following the '11 season. He attended the New York Giants camp in May, but left after one day basically saying he didn't want to try out; but quelling rumors that he had decided to retire. Now he'll be working out for his third NFC East team of the calendar year.
When Jackson last played a full season, 2009, he was one of the league's top centers. His Pro Football Focus cumulative grade of +18.9 was good for seventh overall in the league. His pass block grade of +2.4 was good for 16th and his +11.7 run grade ranked eighth. Per Pro-Football-Reference.com, he has only been charged with two fumbles in his entire career and none since 2007.
That in and of itself might be worth an on-the-spot contract offer for the street free agent as soon as he sets foot on the Cowboys camp complex on Sunday.