photo by nbcdfw.com
While we wait for the Cowboys to hire a new defensive coordinator, we will be moving our position preview series to the offensive side of the ball Unlike the Cowboys, we will start our position evaluations at the ball and move out from there. Tonight is the center position.
Center is an extremely important position going forward for the Cowboys as they saw three different players start at least one game in the 2nd most important position along the offensive line. Here are my evaluations of the Cowboys’ options:
Phil Costa: Your first choice center going into training camp was not healthy to start the year. At the time, I thought that might be a blessing in disguise as the 2011 campaign did not convince me that he deserved another shot at the job. The first game of the season didn’t change my mind as he got hurt on the 3rd snap of the season. I must admit his perception was changed a bit as he mashed in games against the Ravens and continued the most dominate play of his career against the Panthers. For the first time in his career, Costa looked like a starter; he was winning battles at the line of scrimmage, he was not snapping the ball over Romo’s head and he was calling out the right adjustments. He was playing high-caliber football. The bad news was that he only did it for 6 quarters, as he dislocated his ankle in the 3rd quarter of the Panthers game. So here is the decision for Jason Garrett and his staff: does 6 quarters of good football make you comfortable going forward with Costa as your starter in the future?
Ryan Cook: Cook appeared in 13 games and started 11 this season. To be honest, even though he played the position more than any other Cowboy this season, I have less to say about him than the other two candidates. I just don’t think he’s a good enough player to be the starter at center, or any position for that matter. If they keep him as a backup next season I won’t be upset, unless the injury-prone Costa is the guy in front of him on the depth chart. Cook is just quality enough to play a lot of snaps on your offensive line if you expect to be a winning team. The main gripes about him are that he has a hard time reacting to a cadence on time – which causes pre-snap penalties – and he is simply not strong enough to stand up to interior defensive lineman. There also seemed to be several instances where he and the guards could not get it together on inside twist stunts, and as the center, I put that on his shoulders.
Mackenzy Bernadeau: Bernadeau started two games at the center position, and he played much better than I thought he would, considering he had never delivered a snap in a game at any level. His snaps were crisp for the most part (although I think he rolled one or two), and he did a decent job being in the way. It looked like Romo was making most of the line adjustments with him and Cook. The only real problem I have with Bernadeau is that at the guard position, he tends to lunge off the ball with a head-up player, and at center he seemed to be a step slow while concentrating on his snaps. This could be a deadly combination if he’s installed as the full-time starter. With a full training camp (which he didn’t have this season because of injury), he may be able to overcome these tendencies. I love his size and strength at the position, and the fact that if he is able to make the transition, the Cowboys could draft a guard and upgrade at two positions.
Verdict: I think the Cowboys need to draft a center, preferably one in the mold of David DeCastro that is able to play guard as well (crosses fingers, Barret Jones). This would allow Costa, the rookie and Bernardeau battle it out for the two positions. Then the Cowboys could plug the rookie in his best position and if Costa beats Bernadeau out of right guard, or Bernadeau beats Costa out for center, then so be it.