Cowboys mailbag: Is it time to release Nate Livings?

OXNARD, Calif. -- This week's mailbag takes us to the safety position where one fans wants to know about Matt Johnson's progress and came and another asks about Barry Church's root canal. The best question of the bunch surrounds left guard Nate Livings and whether or not the Cowboys should send him packing. It's early in training camp and he's recovering from knee surgery, so he's going to be around a while.

Here's the mailbag.

Q: Calvin, I'm high on Matt Johnson. Do you believe as I do and hope that he'll start for us at some point this season? Nebe Ermyas (Silver Spring, Md.)

A: We'll know plenty about Johnson on Sunday night in the Hall of Fame game when the Cowboys take on the Miami Dolphins. Johnson is currently getting second-team snaps at safety. In team drills we've seen Johnson get one interception, where he returned it for a score. Johnson as drafted in 2012 because of his ability to make plays on the ball. The Cowboys project him to be a starter in the future, but he's not better than veteran Will Allen or the other starter, Barry Church. J.J. Wilcox has played well in two weeks of training camp practices and we've like what Danny McCray has done with the third team. Johnson has had some moments, but Sunday night he gets his chance to show the coaches what he can do in a game after missing last season with a hamstring injury.

Q: What do you think about Bill Callahan calling the plays instead of Jason Garrett and do you think he's on the hot seat? (Kelly Hoskins, Henderson, Nev.)

A: I'm not sure if Callahan can improve the passing attack because Garrett did a pretty good job there. Garrett has said he's making a renewed commitment to the running game and this is where Callahan fits. He'll make sure the Cowboys establish the run attack early in the game, something Garrett didn't do enough of last season. New running backs coach Gary Brown is teaching new techniques to the the player making sure they take one cut and get garbage yards and stop looking for big gains. Garrett has preached it's a collaborative effort when it comes to the offense and with Callahan's playcalling and the teachings of Brown, I think the run game will improve in 2013.

Q: Why don't the Cowboys just cut Nate Livings? He is always hurt and from the sounds of camp so far he has sucked. What will be the salary cap ramifications if he is cut this year? Karl Fuller (Douglasville, Ga.)

A: Livings is out for possibly a month after undergoing knee surgery last week. The Cowboys take a $1.7 million cap hit if Livings is released, which I doubt the team wants to do at this stage. The interesting thing about releasing a player is finding his replacment. The Cowboys are high on Ronald Leary to take over at left guard, but he's inexperienced and these five preseason games are a good test for him. Livings will remain with the team in 2013, but after that it's a question.

Q: Based on what you've seen so far, how much better or worse is the offensive line this year over last? Mark Pachankis (Bossier City, La.)

A: The offensive line had its troubles last season with injuries, three different starting centers, an ineffective play. The first-round selection of center Travis Frederick should improve things in the interior and another year of seasoning from Tyron Smith of the left side should give Cowboys' fans hope. Doug Free has performed well in training camp at right tackle, but the guard spots are where the questions arise. It's too early for answers on how the line will do in 2013, but after two weeks of practices things have been inconsistent.

Q: What's going on with Barry Church? Is he back from the root canal? And how does he look? (Nate from New Jersey)

A: Church is the deep safety in Monte Kiffin's defense and he's moved around well from his torn Achilles. I know you asked is he back since his root canal -- he is -- but that was just a minor thing in comparison to what he returned from. Secondary coach Jerome Henderson said Church is playing with confidence and is comfortable at the safety position. Allen has been a positive influence on Church and the two could make a pretty good duo when the season starts.