Weekend mailbag: Cowboys center issues

All right, let's see what's on your minds this weekend.

Joe D from PCB, Fla., writes, "I saw where you said the Dallas Cowboys didn't address the problem at center. So, because they didn't draft or sign another center, does that mean the issue isn't being addressed?"

Dan Graziano: Well, yeah, kind of. That is what I meant, and what Tim MacMahon meant in the story to which I linked. But as you suggest, it's not really that simple. They did "address" the entire offensive line by bringing in Bill Callahan to coach it. It's possible Phil Costa will play better under Callahan than he did last year. It's possible he will play better if the guards on either side of him are better than the guards between whom he played last year, and in that way the free-agent signings of Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings could work to "address" center. There also exists the possibility that Bernadeau, Kevin Kowalski or Bill Nagy could show enough to replace Costa at center. So, which they didn't go out and make an ostensible effort to upgrade the position, I'm sure the Cowboys are aware that they need to be better there, and are "addressing" it in some ways. Good point, Joe D., assuming that's what you were driving at.

Wedo from Morenci, Ariz., asks whether I think the Washington Redskins drafted Kirk Cousins "in case Robert Griffin III doesn't pan out or maybe to get a draft pick for him down the road?"

DG: Kind of both, Wedo. I think the basic feeling is that Cousins was a guy they liked, and he was sitting there in the fourth round, and how often do you find a quarterback you feel good about in the fourth round? They feel like he's a good quarterback with good pro prospects and that they can develop him in a backup role into the kind of guy who could start if Griffin has an injury or other problems. And if he gets into a game or two, he becomes their Kevin Kolb or Matt Flynn -- a guy for whom other teams might be willing to pay a high price. But he wasn't drafted because of any doubts they have about Griffin. They believe Griffin is their future, and that he will "pan out."

Matt from Mahwah, N.J., (where I used to live, by the way) had a mathematical issue with the John Clayton prediction of a 9-7 record for the Giants and my subsequent analysis of the same. Matt points out that the New York Giants were actually 13-7 last year, not 9-7, and that when you factor in that 4-0 playoff record their actual 2011-12 performance projects to 10.4 wins in a 16-game season. So Matt thinks we should be basing this year's projections on that number.

DG: Well, Matt, your point isn't exactly wrong. I mean, of course we have to use the four postseason games in our evaluation of what kind of team last year's Giants were, just as we have to use the four-game losing streak from November. And yes, those postseason games should get extra weight, since they did obviously come against playoff teams. The Giants' toughness and ability to play their best in the biggest spots is one of their great assets, and I promise it's factored into every aspect of my analysis of their team. But I'm constantly mystified by those who would look at last year's performance as the chief basis for predicting this year's. The Giants suffered a lot of personnel losses and replaced those players with rookies if at all. (Martellus Bennett being the exception at tight end.) They retain last year's weaknesses at some key spots, including offensive line, just as well as they retain last year's strengths at critical positions like quarterback, wide receiver and defensive end. It all goes into the pot, and I reserve the right to keep thinking and analyzing all four teams before making my real predictions in late August or early September. But for the purposes of this week's "more or less" exercise, I don't think there's much wrong with the opinion that the Giants, a 9-7 regular-season team last year, don't seem to have improved themselves this offseason. And so I don't think there's anything wrong with a regular-season prediction of a record identical to or slightly worse than last year's. But that's my opinion, and nothing more, and I continue to wonder why so many people get so upset about one man's opinion.

Tom from Lancaster, Pa., asks if I think the Philadelphia Eagles have any interest in trading for Browns quarterback Colt McCoy, in the wake of this week's news that he could be had for a song.

DG: I wrote earlier in the week that I think they should, Tom, but all indications are that they do not. What that tells me is that they believe Mike Kafka, in his third year in their system, has advanced to the point where they believe he's ready to step in and play if and when Michael Vick gets injured and has to miss time. It's not impossible to imagine that they could have developed a reliable backup in that amount of time. From the outside, I look and say they'd be better off with a guy who's actually started NFL games and knows how to do it. But they're looking at Kafka every day, and if they think he's better than McCoy in spite of the experience differential, then they shouldn't make such a move. And that appears to be the case.

And finally, Tim from Wilmington, Del., asks a question many of you have been asking: When will the "SportsCenter" special previewing the NFC East air?

DG: For those who don't know, "SportsCenter" has been running occasional season previews focusing on individual divisions. The one that focuses on the NFC East is scheduled to run July 3.

Let's try this again next week, shall we?