Cowboys' O-line still searching for 'best five guys'

IRVING, Texas – It’d test first-round pick Travis Frederick’s ample brainpower just to remember the names of all the guards who have lined up beside him with the Cowboys' starters since training camp began.

The list: Mackenzy Bernadeau, Nate Livings, Ronald Leary, David Arkin, Kevin Kowalski and Doug Free. Plus, Frederick got a fair amount of guard reps himself with Phil Costa playing center. And the Cowboys are still in the market for a veteran starting guard after their on-the-cheap attempts to sign Brandon Moore and Brian Waters ended up unsuccessful.

So much for establishing continuity on the offensive line, huh? But leave it to an All-Academic Big Ten selection who needed only three years to graduate with a chemical engineering degree to find an intellectual silver lining.

“There’s something to be said about building continuity, but I think there’s also something to be said about switching everybody in and out,” Frederick said. “The way that I kind of explain it is putting gears together in a machine.

“You have all these gears, and if you have all the gears built the same, the machine works well. If one gear is just a little bit different than the other ones, you’re going to slip every once in a while. So if you can get everybody to be that gear that’s the right way, you mold everybody the same way, you switch everybody in and out so that everybody’s doing the same things, then wherever you plug in, the gears all work together.”

That’s a heck of an analogy, but unfortunately, all of the gears on the Cowboys’ offensive line aren’t built the same. And all the switching in and out certainly isn’t by design, especially this week desperation move of giving Free the first guard reps of his life.

Ideally, the starting offensive line would have worked together from the beginning of camp through the preseason. That’s just not reality for the Cowboys, whose injury issues at guard have complicated the competition for those jobs.

That’s why the Cowboys are in an experimental phase entering their dress rehearsal Saturday against the Bengals.

“At the end of it, we want to play our best five guys,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “We’ve got to figure out who they are and what the best combination is. We want them in their ideal spots, but if this group of five is better than that group of five, in these spots, then we should go ahead and do that.”