Back in February, in a move that did not surprise a single Dallas Cowboys fan, Jason Garrett announced that they would be switching tackles, moving Tyron Smith to left tackle and Doug Free to right tackle.
The Cowboys' new offensive line coach, Bill Callahan, has been working with his players for a couple of weeks now, and is excited about having Tyron Smith at left tackle:
"Just having three weeks into this, it's been real positive from that aspect," Callahan said. "It'll be interesting to see how Tyron does, but he has been drilling very well."
But the key to improving the Cowboys' O-line performance is probably less about switching a couple of tackles, and more about fixing the interior of the O-line. The Cowboys effectively started the 2011 season with three rookies on the O-line (in addition to Smith and Nagy, I'm counting Costa as a rookie, just to make a point), and Jerry Jones has already indicated this offseason that the Cowboys were overoptimistic about their interior O-line personnel.
It'll be Callahan's job to ensure the Cowboys don't suffer a repeat of last year, and after the break, he lays out his thoughts for what changes he sees coming on the O-line.
During free agency, the Cowboys brought in two veterans to shore up the interior of the O-line, Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau. The Cowboys did not score high grades for these acquisitions from most NFL observers, and from most of their owns fans. But the Cowboys liked what they saw in the two guards, particularly their size, strength and their ability to maintain the pocket.
Callahan said today that both free agent acquisitions are projected to be starters, Livings at left guard and Bernadeau at right guard.
"That's where we're going to start it, and we'll go from there," Callahan said. "As I told them, we're going to be flexible, we'll be fluid with both of them, so when we're in camp, there's a possibility of Mack going to left and Nate to the right. We'll see how it plays out, but that is the starting point."
At center, Callahan appears to be projecting Phil Costa to as the starter but will also give Bill Nagy a look at that position.
"The good thing about Bill is that he's very versatile, having played both guard spots a year ago," Callahan said. "He's trying to improve his craft this season at that position as well as learning all the new center calls and techniques, so what we're doing is basically cross-training all those players."
None of this is set in stone of course, and Callahan was quick to point out that this was just a starting point, and that the Cowboys were going to be flexible in camp. The most 'flexible' position in this line-up is probably the center posotion, where Callahan is apparently even planning to give Bernadeau some looks in training camp:
"He had played some center in the preseason with Carolina so he’s been exposed to that spot. He’s got that position flexibility so that’s a real positive. Yeah, he has that in him. I haven’t seen it as of late, but he did serve as a backup center in emergency situations, so he has taken snaps from what we’ve had in our conversations with him."
Conspicuously absent from Callahan's mental shortlist are Kevin Kowalski and David Arkin. This may simply have been Callahan not wanting to provide a status update on every single player, or it could have been a sign that the Cowboys may have soured a little on at least Dave Arkin. In yesterday's "Cowboys Crunchtime Podcast", our own KD referenced an exchange he had on that specific topic with Bob Sturm:
Bob Sturm suggested that the new offensive line regime does not see the pro potential in Arkin based on the film that they watched, and might not even have him in the Cowboys future plans at all. Sturm mentioned that his inside track birdie tells him maybe we should put our money on Bill Nagy winning the starting center job or at least give him the first crack when camp opens up.
As the saying goes, the soup is never eaten as hot as it's cooked, and this is especially true of roster predictions in early May - training camp has a way of making pre-camp rumors look downright silly - but as it stands today, this could be your starting OL lineup for the 2012 Dallas Cowboys:
Smith - Livings - Costa - Bernadeau - Free