David Arkin has been getting reps at right guard as the team waited for Montrae Holland to recover from a stiff back that has kept him out of practice since Thursday. Arkin made the most of his time, and as improbable as it sounds, the fourth-round draft pick is being seen by many observers as a serious option to start at guard in place of Holland.
Particularly since Holland hasn't been a picture of health in Dallas. He showed up in camp 20 pounds overweight and isn't exactly the mobile lineman the Cowboys seem to be looking for. Also, when dallascowboys.com officially writes that Holland has had an "overall shaky performance this camp", that probably means the alarm bells are ringing.
At the same time, the Cowboys are rightfully very concerned about a possible scenario where two rookies, Arkin and Tyron Smith, would be playing next to each other on the right side of the offensive line. So it didn't come as a big surprise when the Cowboys let it be known yesterday that they would change the guards, moving David Arkin to left guard and Kyle Kosier to right guard. Dave looked at the move in more detail here. By implementing this change, for all intents and purposes, the Cowboys are signaling that their starting offensive line at this point in camp looks as follows:
Doug Free - David Arkin - Andre Gurode - Kyle Kosier - Tyron Smith
O-line coach Hudson Houck didn't want two rookies next to each other on the O-line:
"The reason is really two-fold," offensive line coach Hudson Houck said. "One, (Kosier) can be very helpful to the right tackle. And two, he does feel very comfortable over there. We’re just seeing combinations right now."
"We need somebody to communicate over there," Houck said. "Communication between linemen is so important, and we need (a veteran) over there, not another rookie, talking to (Smith)."
Jerry Jones was adamant recently that the Cowboys would not sign another guard, but if Holland remains troubled by injuries and/or continues to show a shaky performance, the Cowboys may have no choice but to look elsewhere for help at guard - or go into the season with two rookies on the O-line, and little in the way of a backup at guard.
But the free agency options right now are slim. One option could be Brian Waters, who was recently released by the Chiefs. The 34-year old Texas native is a two-time first-team All Pro and a five-time Pro Bowler, most recently last year, who would easily be an instant upgrade over Holland and could help transition David Arkin into the role a little more smoothly. Another option could be to re-sign Leonard Davis to a one-year deal, but the chances of Davis being an improvement over the guy who replaced him last season (until he got injured) are fairly slim. The final option might come down to the waiver wire, where the Cowboys might get lucky, but that's always a risky bet.
The Cowboys currently have four guards on the roster. Kosier and Arkin today look like they're penciled in as the starters. Holland looks like the backup at this point. After that it gets very sketchy. Pepa Letuli is officially listed as the fourth guard, but the UDFA has himself been injured for much of training camp. Seventh round pick Bill Nagy is officially listed as a center and could play guard, but he looks more like a candidate for the practice squad. Overall, that's cutting it mighty thin at guard.
What's more, I think at this point it's unrealistic to expect either Kosier or Holland to remain healthy for the entire season. If I were Jerry Jones, I'd be on the phone with Brian Waters this very minute.