What to do with the OL - first week of TC edition

We have gotten several of our guards back to practice. We have been using a lot of Arkin and Leary both of whom have improved a great deal since my last OL update. Livings is a key question for the OL, but not the only question.

To recap

Let’s get the team to TC first. We still have some draft picks, UDFA, and FA to go. There are some issues that will help sort out the OL, including talent, potential, age [both old and very young] and health.

1. Dockery is gone - check
2. What to do with Free - cheaper and playing better
3. Will Costa and/or Kowalski be healthy - looks like both are better
4. How healthy is Bernie - ?
5. I suspect that one or both of Arkin and Leary do not make the team - needs updating
6. Parnell, Weems and all the other place holders - we need to look at backup tackles
7. Presume Smith, Frederick and Cook are safe - Cook not so much

Like Holland the year before, he was the most consistent interior OL we had. Yet we might not keep him this year, let alone next year.

Under Garrett, we have a long term plan to draft our OL, instead of using FA. Then we want to develop them internally.

Livings and Bernie were short term tweaks to the long term plan. They were signed to reasonably cheap contract that allows us to cut him next year with little cap hit, to give time to develop the younger guys. Unlike Bernie, we did not restructure his contract.

If the younger guys can step up as planned, we might just eat the small amount of dead money and cut Livings early. The short term adjustment would be a successful adjustment to the long term plan.


- is the oldest OL we have on a team that values youth
- is only a guard on a team that values all interior OL guys to be able to play all three guard/center positions
- more expensive than other guard options

Yet we are looking at all combinations of players to evaluate what they can and cannot do. This evaluation will probably take the entire TC before we make the final decisions on the OL.

Costa, Kowalksi,and Frederick.

Frederick was drafted to be the starting center. So far, he has shown what the coaches and scouts saw in him to be the number one pick. That moves Costa and Kowalksi down the roster depth. I suspect that one will be the backup center and the other will fight for a starting or backup guard position.

Arkin, Leary, Bernie, and Cook.

Originally, I said that only one or the other will make the cut this year. I am happy to hear that both have improved a great deal since that article. That puts additional stress on the final roster. I suspect that Livings and Cook are on the bubble.

Cook was signed to be insurance as we did not know if Costa and Kowalski were going to be available during the season. We tried out Arkin at center and he did credibly well, considering he had never played center before. Arkin demonstrated his RKG qualities, but that delayed his progress at guard.

Yet we decided to trade for Cook. That turned out to be fortuitous as we inserted him in opener three snaps into the game and he was the starting center for most of the season. We had 10% of the annual snaps in three games and Bernie started the other two games. Bernie was a disaster at center, but he was the 4th string emergency guy playing center for the first time. He could improve with some experience.

Cook is on the bubble as he is the second oldest player on the OL is more expensive and is now one more player down the roster. He was the # 3 center last year and we now have Frederick as the starter.

Cook has some value as the Proctor utility game day backup, yet that is minimized by the number of other players who can play all three interior positions. Cook was drafted as a right tackle, but just like Arkin who was a tackle in college, their chances of playing tackle now is only on paper.

Weems and the other backup tackles

Weems was added to the roster, when we put Costa on IR. At the time, we only had three tackles - Free, Smith, and Parnell. It was good to change the distribution of the positions, yet no one has stepped up.

Parnell has not played as well as expected. Partly, that is too high of expectations. He did credibly well as a backup and filled in as a starter at LT. Yet during those games at LT, the D was concentrating on attacking the middle of the line. Parnell did ok, but Free did even better. When Parnell got quality snaps at RT, he did ok, but again Free did better.

We have added others such as Bell and Coughman. This speaks more about the need for a backup tackle than for either of them. While I am not high on Bell, the scouts saw something in him. The scouts have been right enough in recent years to give them some benefit of the doubt.

Past history

In this regard, it will be like Garrett’s first year when we took all TC to evaluate another set of young players – the three draft picks, a UDFA rookie in Kowalksi and a second year UDFA Costa before cutting Holland, Gurode, Davis, Colombo.

Making a decision on one player can have a cascade effect on the rest. Kowalksi forced the decision his rookie year. In doing so we asked Gurode to take a pay cut, he refused and was cut,.

Then we also decided to go young instead of Holland as Nagy beat him out. I think we had decided that Nagy would make the team, but having Kowalski on the team as a backup made Holland expendable.

Later we added Dockery as the veteran backup just in case. However, unlike Cook this past year, Dockery did not pan out.

OL in recent years

We have changed OL a great deal over the Garrett years. Each year we have had multiple new starters and only Costa and Free remain from before Garrett.

Last year – Smith, Livings, Costa [might as well be Cook], Bernie, Free
2 yrs ago- Free, Nagy [really PTBNL], Costa, Koiser, Smith
3 yrs ago – Free, Kosier, Gurode, Davis, Colombo

Yet the worst part of the continuity issue last year was the number of injuries. We were constantly shifting the OL. Livings, Costa, and Bernie were all injured in the off season and we only had the full five starters the week before the opener. Then that only lasted three snaps before we inserted Cook.

We eventually had a OL of Parnell, Livings, Bernie, Dockery, Free

Yet continuity is just one factor

Just getting the OL starters healthy and working together will be a major plus this year. Yet we have added talent in Frederick, and the young guys are one year more ready.

Then we have more coaching and better schemes this year.

It is still early in training camp so lets recap the questions that I laid out before

Questions that all inter-relate

Question 1 – are the players healthy? If not they could be cut/IR/PUP.

Question 2 - how much dead money to eat with the FA guards Livngs and Bernie. Livings is past his prime and is Bernie more of a young guy to develop like Costa/Kowalksi/Arkin/Leary or a transition guy like Livings.

Question 3 - how much dead money to eat on Free. I think we have one more year because of his salary cap hit. Yet we will find out sooner than later.

Question 4 - if we keep Costa and/or Kowalski, then do we need the 30 year old Cook, who is the second oldest behind Livings.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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