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What Are The Cowboys Doing At Center?

Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys have had a great offseason so far. One of the reasons the Cowboys are going to be a better football team under Jason Garrett is that he knows what he is doing. Wade Phillips was involved in the decision making process during his tenure as head coach, but it is crystal clear that Garrett has a better grasp for making personnel and business decisions.

One overlooked aspect of the Cowboys offseason is the team finally having a culture set in place. They know what type of players they are looking for and they go out and get them. Targets are set on a priority list, and the higher priority gets the full-ride treatment. Jason Garrett will be entering his second season as head coach, but his detail-oriented ways of thinking are helping this team take the next step.

After years of inactivity in free agency, the team went out and signed six new players. They didn't just spend money because they had to, they finally spent money because they wanted to. If I were to grade their free agency, I would give them a B+.

Do you know what is preventing them from receiving an A+? The lack of focus on the center position. Where is the emphasis on adding a quality center to the roster? If they are serious about Phil Costa being a starter again, then they are fooling themselves into a mistake, a big one. This team cannot afford to be held back by their center play again. Every good offense has a decent center, the position is vital to the success of the offense. Costa is holding this team back and he will prevent them from being the dynamic offense they could be.

Why is Phil Costa a mistake? Take the jump to find out why....

We Have 99 Problems And Costa Is One

Okay, so maybe we don't have 99 problems, but Costa is definitely a problem. After releasing veteran Andre Gurode and rolling with the UDFA at center, the Cowboys suffered an actual downgrade at the center position. The front office loved the idea of saving money and upgrading the position at the same time, but it didn't work out that way. We went from Gurode, who was an average center, to Costa, one of the worst centers in the NFL. Pro Football Focus graded him out with a -9.7 grade.

Costa has had snap issues since he was at Maryland. Knowing that he has had these issues since college makes me wonder if he will ever learn to properly snap a football. One of the excuses for his poor play last season was his lack of strength due to the lockout. With a rookie player I would give you that, but this wasn't a rookie. Costa has been in the league before, he knew he had to increase his strength and conditioning during the lockout. He had his entire rookie season, where he barely played, to work on that.

Far too often was he thrown around and embarrassed by defensive lineman. Teams knew where our weakness was on the offensive line and attacked up the middle all season against us. Tony Romo deserves a reliable center that isn't going to snap the ball at any given moment.

The Costa situation resembles the Alan Ball scenario from 2010. The Cowboys wanted to shave money from their payroll and start an unproven player at a important position. I never had a problem with giving a young player a chance, but you need to have a backup plan. The worst possible outcome is having a plan blowup in your face without a reliable backup plan. This is exactly what happened to the Cowboys not once, but twice now. Hopefully they have learned from their mistakes, after all they do say the third time is a charm.

The center market is beginning to dry up after nearly a week into free agency, so that option may be out the window. I don't know how much more of a risk it would be drafting a center and playing him over Costa. When you had one of the worst centers in the NFL last year, how much worse could it really get?

The Draft May Be The Salvation The Cowboys Need

Free agency is far from over, so the Cowboys could still decide to go that route, but I doubt it. Once again the draft offers talent at a reasonable price. This year's draft class isn't exactly loaded with talent at the center position, but there are some worthy candidates for the Cowboys. In order, here are the prospects that the Cowboys should take a look at.

Peter Konz

At one point I had Konz rated as a top fifteen player on my big board. He is that good of a prospect and if he is healthy, Konz could be one of the best offensive lineman in the draft. The problem is just that, his health. We are basically in the dark right now about what is really going on. Bill Callahan worked out with Konz and Kevin Zeitler recently, so I assume the Cowboys are doing their homework on Konz. Projection: 1st-2nd round (health concerns may drop him)

Ben Jones

The Cowboys scouts saw something in Georgia fullback Shaun Chapas last year. Hopefully while they were scouting Chapas, they took notice of Georgia center Ben Jones. He is near the exact same size of Costa, weighing in at 6-3, 316 pounds. His college mascot is the bulldog, and his game is reminiscent of the same animal. The scouting department likes centers who are agile and athletic, so Jones will fit the mold they are looking for. Some might say that this is reminds them of Costa, but I think Jones is everything Costa wished he was. Projection: 2nd-3rd round

Michael Brewster

Brewster is another larger center prospect similar to Konz, weighing in at 6-5, and 305 pounds. The Ohio State lineman comes from a school known for it's offensive lineman and he faced quality competition during his four years as a starter. This is where good coaching and experience come into play, and that is very valuable in the draft. Bill Callahan had another Buckeye center with the Jets in Nick Mangold, so maybe he speaks up and urges the team to draft a center he can mold into one of the leagues best. Projection: 2nd-3rd round

Quenton Saulsberry

Our first relative unknown prospect is from Mississippi State. Saulsberry is a player that jumps off the tape when you watch him. He wins his battles and looks good doing it. One area the Cowboys value highly is versatility, they love guys who can play multiple positions. While starting for four years on the offensive line in a tough SEC conference, he played all over the offensive line. This is one of the best unknown prospects in the entire draft, let's hope he isn't unknown to the Cowboys war room. Projection: 4th-5th round

Phillip Blake

Blake is a late bloomer who didn't begin playing football in his native Canada until he was a senior in high school. He transferred from a community college to Baylor in 2009, where he actually started as a right tackle. Blake was moved to center and became an instant starter there. His experience and versatility make him an intriguing option for the Cowboys later in the draft. He has his best football ahead of him and is still developing his skills, but he can be a starter in the NFL fairly soon. Projection: 5th round

David Molk

The only reason that will prevent him from being drafted higher is his size. At the combine he weighed in at 6-1, 298 pounds. He is a four-year starter for Michigan and has the experience that teams will value at the center position. Molk will use his intelligence and technique to win a lot of battles against defensive lineman. He has a lot of heart and fight in him, and he uses that to his advantage. The lack of strength and tight hips will give him huge problems in the NFL. Because of his deficiencies, I had to rank him lower than the other centers. Molk would be a good value for the Cowboys late in the draft because of his character and experience. Projection: 6th round


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