Cowboys position series: Center/guard

The sixth in a series looking at each of the Dallas Cowboys’ position groups:

Players: C Andre Gurode (signed through 2012), RG Leonard Davis (signed through 2013), LG Kyle Kosier (signed through 2010), C/G Cory Procter (restricted free agent), G Montrae Holland (unrestricted free agent), C/G Duke Preston (restricted free agent)

What went right: Gurode and Davis were Pro Bowl selections again, although neither had their best seasons.

Kosier actually performed the best of the team’s offensive linemen, according to ex-Cowboys scout Bryan Broaddus of ESPN 103.3. After missing most of the 2009 season with a broken foot, Kosier stayed healthy and was a stabilizing force for the offensive line. His ability to get out in space helped spring several big plays.

The Cowboys ranked second in the NFL in yards per carry directly up the middle, averaging 5.24 yards on 144 carries, many of which were lead draws. That fueled a dramatically improved running game.

What went wrong: This group gets some of the blame for the Cowboys’ short-yardage problems.

The Cowboys struggled running the ball behind both guards. They ranked 24th in the NFL behind right guard (3.32 yards per carry) and 19th behind left guard (3.76).

The interior line’s depth wasn’t tested this season, which was a good thing. But Montrae Holland, who was inactive every game and played sparingly the previous season, cost the Cowboys their 2010 fifth-round pick in a trade with the Denver Broncos.

What’s next: Interior offensive line is near the top of the list of Cowboys draft needs.

They need to find a replacement for Kosier, who will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. That might end up being Robert Brewster, the third-round pick who worked at right tackle last offseason but missed his rookie season with a torn pectoral.

But it’d be surprising if the Cowboys don’t address the guard position early in the draft. Idaho’s Mike Iupati would be a great fit, but he’s expected to be off the board by the time the Cowboys come on the clock at No. 27.

The Cowboys could also draft a center to compete with Procter, who made $1.54 million last season, as Gurode’s backup. This would be a good time to begin grooming an eventual replacement for Gurode, who turns 31 in March.