Jerry Jones, presumably after an evaluation meeting with coaches and scouts fresh off of analyzing the Cowboys' first preseason game, decided to take his pleasure with second-year offensive lineman Phil Costa to the media.
Costa is going to play a lot for the Cowboys . . . now. Now! I don't know how that works, but I'm glad we've got him. At this juncture, I don't know if anyone has had a better preseason than he's had. I put him right there at the top from my perspective with preseason work and how impressed we've been with him.
Let's look at the different options for 2011 and 2012 on the interior line. Your assets are Andre Gurode, Montrae Holland, Kyle Kosier, David Arkin, Costa, and potentially Bill Nagy in the future. For 2011 Kosier will start at a guard spot, seemingly likely to be right guard. Before we go any further, let's remember that he missed three games last year and 13 in 2008 (and he's only getting older), so the fact that there appears to be some playable depth on the inside of the line is a pretty big positive.
Placing Kosier at right guard, next to rookie Tyron Smith, leaves left guard and center in play for 2011, and Gurode, Holland, Arkin and Costa as possible alternatives. As discussed on Blogging The Boys here, here and here, we have quite a contrast in the veterans, Gurode and Holland, and the young guys, Arkin and Costa. Jason Garrett appears to be looking to transform the line from a bulldozer to one that cuts, pulls and thinks its way through. Gurode and Holland both represent that old style, as immobile and heavy, but strong as a stump alternatives. They also offer experience. Arkin and Costa are both athletic, but they aren't going to overpower anyone.
If we assume that Gurode starts at center (he is, after all, costing the Cowboys over $7 million on their cap this season), Holland, Costa and Arkin would vie for the left guard spot. Holland has to be healthy and fit before he vies for anything, and he's been off of the practice field all camp with a back injury. Arkin probably won't really be ready to play until some ways into the season, given that he missed out on all of the pre-camp tutoring normally given to rookies. Then there's Costa. His notoriously short arms seem like a bigger problem at guard than center, but his athleticism and smarts would be pretty big assets. Hudson Houck does not dismiss the possibility of him being the guy.
Total possibility. We're letting things play out as they are, and see Montrae, see how he comes on. There's a lot of moving parts at this point.
Now that Gurode is back, if the Cowboys are going to seriously consider Costa for a starting guard spot they'll likely give him some time at guard. He did play some at guard in 2010, as a part of his four games and one start. If Costa (or Arkin, for that matter) wins the job, the line will have a dramatically different look to it. Rather than an aging, one-legged Marc Colombo at right tackle, Smith will bookend Free and offer plenty of speed and mobility on the ends. Gurode will still be effectively an anchor at center, but both guards would be able to pull and get to the second level. With Costa's reputed intelligence, both guards figure to be able to help in mental aspects.
Looking forward to 2012, these guys' play will determine the Cowboys' intentions, but with Arkin likely to start in his second season, a positive year by Costa could lead to more change. Holland, Gurode and Kosier will be 32, 34 and 33. Holland is in the last year of his contract this season, while Gurode would offer an enticing salary dump if he can be replaced. His remaining $1.7 million guaranteed would add a bit to the dead money already on the books, but the club would save $6.5 million by cutting him. That would offset nearly a third of the dead money already on the books.
If Arkin and Costa do gain starting spots for 2012, the line would be one of the younger and more athletic in football. Kosier would figure to be the only oldie in the group. It's unclear whether Costa or Arkin would slot at center, with Costa's arms and brains fitting better there and some seeing Arkin as an ideal prospect for the spot as well.
However things work out this summer, as Randy Galloway said in his column Sunday, it's nice to finally see youth being developed in the offensive line.