OXNARD, Calif. – It is not a consensus opinion that offensive line ranks atop the list of Cowboys concerns.
Running back DeMarco Murray vehemently disagrees, believing the Cowboys have the blockers in place to help him put up big rushing numbers this season. The Cowboys set a franchise record for rushing futility last season, ranking 31st in the NFL in rushing offense, with Murray running for 663 yards (4.1 per carry) in 10 games.
“The sky’s the limit,” said Murray, who cited the linemen’s ability to move laterally as an asset he especially appreciated. “These guys are working hard. I’m very, very proud of the guys we’ve got, the five starters and the guys behind them.
“I wouldn’t want to be behind any other line. I love these guys. I’ve got a lot of respect for these guys. They’re going to have a great year for us.”
One issue: The Cowboys aren’t quite certain who will make up their starting offensive line as they break training camp.
The Cowboys still have an offer on the table for Brian Waters, the six-time Pro Bowl guard who sat out last season. If Waters signs, he’d likely replace Mackenzy Bernadeau as the starter at right guard.
There’s significant uncertainty at left guard, too, with Ronald Leary and Nate Livings both recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. The Cowboys are optimistic that Leary, who has essentially unseated Livings as the starter, will be ready to play in the Sept. 8 season opener. However, they have to come up with contingency plans.
The group of left tackle Tyron Smith, left guard Leary, center Travis Frederick, right guard Bernadeau and right tackle Doug Free practiced together for a week and a half, as Leary (calf) and Bernadeau (hamstring) were both sidelined to start camp. They played a couple of series together in the preseason game in Oakland.
If Waters joins the Cowboys, it’d mark the second straight year that the team’s starting offensive line didn’t get a single camp rep as an entire unit.
“You’d rather have the whole unit solidified six months ago,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “That’s just not where we are. That’s not where a lot of teams in the league are. We’re just trying to put together the best combinations.”
Murray acknowledges that it’d be preferable for the offensive line to be able to establish continuity, but he insists he isn’t concerned about his blockers.
“For the most part, these guys have played a lot of football,” Murray said. “In OTAs, I think we played well. Through training camp, there’s been a different kind of rhythm that we’ve been playing with. Different guys have to be ready to play. It’s up to each person individually.
“You’re a pro. You’ve got to be ready as a person and an individual whenever your number is called. As a front, obviously, you would like the same five guys. But sometimes the cards aren’t dealt that way, so you’ve got to keep moving.”
It remains to be seen whether Murray is right about having room to move this season.