OXNARD, Calif. – It’s one of the oldest clichés in football: The offensive line needs continuity and chemistry to succeed.
One padded practice into training camp and the Cowboys are fighting an uphill battle with that continuity and chemistry because of injuries to Nate Livings, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Kevin Kowalski and Bill Nagy.
Livings isn’t expected to miss a lot of time. Bernadeau and Kowalski are on the physically unable to perform list, and Nagy is out with a high ankle sprain.
Offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Callahan is not worried, at least publicly. He’s saying all the right things about the injuries opening up spots for younger players, such as Ronald Leary, to compete. What else can he say?
There has been a monumental shift on the Cowboys’ line in the last three years and a big shift this season as well. Only center Phil Costa is returning to the same position from a year ago. Tyron Smith and Doug Free have switched tackle spots, and Free said the other day he’s still getting acclimated to the right side.
Free started seven games at right tackle in 2009. Smith has never played left tackle, except for the few snaps he took there early in camp last year in San Antonio.
Livings and Bernadeau were signed to be the starting guards, so they’re making an adjustment to a new team and new scheme. Bernadeau has yet to take a snap in an organized team activity, mini-camp or training camp workout because of hip and knee surgeries.
Jason Garrett says he does not like to use the word “worried” -- or any synonym. That’s just how coaches are with their next-man-up theory.
But the organization is not sitting back and waiting for players to get healthy. They are looking at players on other rosters. They have Montrae Holland, Derrick Dockery and Daniel Loper in for workouts. Scoff all you want at that, but Larry Allen isn’t walking through that door anytime soon.
Callahan’s run game is not too dissimilar to what the Cowboys used in 2011, so at least Holland, Dockery and Loper have experience with the Cowboys, if not Callahan’s technique.
Maybe none of this will matter when the Cowboys open the season Sept. 5 at the New York Giants, but this is certainly not the way to start training camp.