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Changing of the Guards: Could Byron Bell or Joe Looney Become Starter?

With plenty of discussion ongoing about the Cowboys' left position, the two names you hear most are and . It seems like most analysts aren't giving veterans and much of a shot in this competition, and that could be a mistake.

No to go Full Jaworski on you, but experience is huge in the National Football League. Overall professional experience is one asset and system familiarity, especially time with your team, is another. These could play huge factors in who is best suited to join , , , and in the starting lineup next season.

Byron Bell
G/T Byron Bell

Byron Bell has started 72 games in five NFL seasons, which dwarfs the 14 starts by Cooper and just two for Green. While more of those came at than guard, Bell moved inside in 2015 with the so has plenty of familiarity with the role.

Bell made news recently for coming in under his weight goal and earning a contract bonus. The goal was 320 pounds and we don't know exactly how far below it he was. One would assume, though, that Bell is still plenty big enough to play guard if desired.

Shedding weight will help Bell to make it on this with how much they are asked to get in space. One of the Dallas line's best traits is in its movement on outside runs and screens. To even have a chance at starting, Byron has to be able to keep up.

Bell missed all of 2016 with a severe ankle . He started all 16 games in 2015 for the after as a , spending his first four seasons with the Panthers. Despite going undrafted, Bell was starting by Week 6 of his rookie year and went to the twice.

Joe Looney
G/C Joe Looney

While he hasn't had nearly as much starting experience as Bell, Joe Looney has more experience as a Dallas Cowboy. Signed last year to replace as the backup , Looney dressed in all 16 games and was credited with three starts. He was used in a six-linemen package to open two games and also started the Cowboys finale, which was little more than a game.

With La'el Collins hurt most of last year, Looney was trusted to be the Cowboys primary backup at both guard and center. That trust is no small thing and could carry over into the competition in 2017. Consider the recent comments by Cowboys insider Bryan Broaddus:

Joe Looney was initially there during opening workouts but missed time later with a back issue… I would not be surprised if Looney is the starter, but the staff might feel more comfortable with Cooper — who is a little bit better athlete and a little bit stronger.

It's no surprise that the Cowboys would love to see Jonathan Cooper, a former Top-10 draft pick who they coveted, earn the spot. Even after a rocky start to his NFL career, Cooper likely has the most perceived upside of all the guard options. But Cooper's could easily repeat, and then Bell or Looney are your other two veterans.

The start of should reveal a lot about who Dallas likes most for the left guard position. Without question, it'll be one of the most-discussed storylines when the Cowboys get to next month.

Jess Haynie
Jess Haynie
Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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Travis Diggs

At this point, we gotta give this coaching staff the benfit of the doubt. If they feel Cooper is the favorite at the LG spot, then he obviously is doing something right. As cowboys fans we wont are guys, but if Chaz Green doesn’t beat him out Then we gotta be ok with Cooper or Bell or who ever. This offensive line will be ok as long as they have the three all pros

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