The Cowboys are equipped with what many would deem one of the top sets of skill position players in the NFL, yet they haven’t been able to truly break through on offense because of poor offensive line play. In 2012, that play was worst on the right side. Yesterday, I explained why the Cowboys should bench right tackle Doug Free in favor of Jermey Parnell. Today, I’ll examine why right guard Mackenzy Bernadeau should be the next to get the boot.
In 2012, Bernadeau allowed a 3.2 percent pressure rate and six sacks—both poor numbers for an interior lineman. Bernadeau got beat by all types of defensive linemen, giving quarterback Tony Romo nowhere to step up to throw. In the running game, Bernadeau was even worse. The Cowboys averaged just 3.18 YPC with Bernadeau at the point-of-attack last year. While you might think the ‘Boys ran inside primarily in short-yardage and goal line situations, that’s not quite true. The average distance-to-go for a first down when the Cowboys ran behind Bernadeau was 7.78 yards—just below the average of 8.01 yards on all runs.
The problem, as many see it, is that the Cowboys don’t have a known commodity to step in for Bernadeau. I think this is a mistake made by coaches around the league—taking the “sure thing,” even if he’s not that good. But the Cowboys probably have a better option waiting behind Bernadeau, even if they’re not yet sure who it is.
In second-year man Ronald Leary and interior lineman Phil Costa, the Cowboys have two potential fill-ins for Bernadeau. Costa, who has guard experience, was sensational during his limited time at center in 2012. The coaches also really like what they have in undrafted free agent Leary, meaning the ‘Boys really have numbers on their side at the guard position. If they’re willing to hold an open competition for the starting right guard spot, chances are either Bernadeau, Leary, or Costa will step up. Based on 2012 play alone, Costa seems like he’d be the best fit.
And in terms of the long-term state of the line, Costa (25) and Leary (24) offer an advantage over Bernadeau (27). Yes, Bernadeau has the bigger contact, but that’s a sunk cost. At this point, the Cowboys should do what’s in their best interest on the field, regardless of money. In both the near and long-term, that probably means benching Bernadeau.
Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.