OXNARD, Calif. — OK, let’s concentrate on running the football, balancing up the offensive attack. That’s a prime goal for 2013, so sayeth the Cowboys’ honchos. The running game.OK, let’s also concentrate on better protection for the quarterback. Keep him upright. Give him more time. The QB needs some blocking, which is a sound theory, even if it’s used as a Tony Romo “excuse” at times.Wade Wilson, by far the Cowboys coaching staff member with the most Valley Ranch seniority (10 years and counting) was eager to re-emphasize these priorities for the coming season.“It’s not a theory, it’s a must,” said the quarterback coach here Tuesday. “We’ve got to run the ball better. We’ve got to protect Tony better. If we are going to be a better offense, and better football team, those things have to be accomplished.”No argument so far with any of that.Except …The obvious kicker is none of this happens without an improved offensive line, and it’s been years since the Cowboys have been considered sound in the offensive line, and, sure enough, the biggest doubt after three weeks of camp is, of course, the offensive line.Listening to various coaches this week, there’s a hopeful prayer response when asked about the progress of the offensive line so far this summer.In other words, they are being positive publicly, but who knows if that’s the truth? What is seen from this untrained eye is the possibility for improvement, although I wouldn’t push real hard on that point.But standing on the practice field sidelines not only this week, but the entire three weeks of this camp, has been the rather slim-downed figure of one Nate Newton.Now there was a self-made offensive lineman, of course, and Nate was a guy who made All-Pro and Pro Bowls during the Dynasty Days of the Cowboys.In a totally unrelated issue to the current conversation, former Cowboys star safety Darren Woodson, now an ESPN employee, was talking about the Cowboys’ lack of strong leadership among the players.“When I came in as a rookie, the leadership was coming from all over, but what made it so good, it wasn’t just the star names,” said Woody to reporter Matt Mosley of Fox. “We got it from a Nate and an Erik Williams in the offensive line. Nate was vocal. He’d say anything, and jump anybody’s butt.”Newton, of course, ran a few of life’s stop signs in retirement, paid the price and then came back strong. He now works in the DFW media, both radio and TV, and is closely associated with the Cowboys’ organization.The other day out here, I saw him watching the offensive line work against the defensive line in a passing drill. Nate was animated, waving his arms and mumbling to himself.“You doing any coaching out here?” I asked Newton.His reply:“I’m not supposed to, but sometimes I can’t help myself. I just grab a guy after practice and ask him what the hell he was attempting to do out there. Then I show him what he needs to be doing.”Looking for an independent and valid observer of the offensive line play, I asked Newton for a rundown of the Cowboys’ current situation.Nate didn’t hesitate, but he wanted it known how much he respected the offensive line coaching of newcomer Frank Pollack, who worked for the Raiders and Texans the last few years.Pollack is listed as the assistant OL coach here, but oversees the group since Bill Callahan is now busy with the new duties of offensive play caller.Here’s the way Newton sees this OL, name by name.Tackles: Tyron Smith and Doug Free.Smith gets nothing but better. Free got nothing but worse a season ago and only returned to the Cowboys after accepting a massive pay cut.I mentioned to Nate that there doesn’t seem to be the dog-cussing of Free that was heard a year ago out here.“Love the fact he didn’t fold up after all the bad stuff,” said Newton. “Actually, he’s working harder than ever. I got some faith in him again. His problem right now is still handling the bull-rush and, in that regard, the Giants game [the regular-season opener] will be a big test for Doug, because the Giants’ defense bull-rushes off the edge.“Doug is showing he’s got stomach and heart. That’s a good sign. I couldn’t say that a year ago about him. He was real bad.”The other tackle’s name is Jermey Parnell, who showed some promise a season ago. “I don’t know about him right now,” said Newton. “He’s been hurt. Get back on the damn field, kid.”Guards: This is the most iffy position on the entire team. Right now, it’s last year’s free agent signee, Ronald Leary, and the other starter probably isn’t on this roster.Leary, however, has been drawing praise. Is he worthy of praise?“I think so,” Newton said. “He’s holding his own daily against [Jason] Hatcher. That ain’t easy. Hatcher is going at a real high gear on defense.“Here’s what I want to tell Leary: You are a young guy making progress. Do not think you have arrived, like they are saying. You ain’t arrived, kid. Not yet.“But stay away from the slappies on this team who think they have earned the right to take a day off. Distance yourself far from the slappies. They will drag you down.”And the other guard?“He’s probably sitting at his house right. Brian Waters is that guy, I’d say,” answered Newton. “But I will say this about [Mackenzy] Bernadeau. He’s so much better right now than a year ago. That ain’t saying much, I know. He was awful out here a year ago and didn’t have a good year, as we know.“I’m just saying I see a much better player right now, but it’s too early to know what that means.”And finally, the center, first-round draft pick, Travis Frederick.“I just hope,” said Newton, “they leave him alone. Leave him at center. Don’t be putting him at guard. He’s not a guard. But he can be a real good center. I don’t want to get carried away yet, but there’s a heck of a lot to like. He’s a player.”Ask for an opinion from Nate, and you get it.Thanks, Nate. Randy Galloway can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on Galloway & Co. on ESPN/103.3 FM.
Randy Galloway, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @sportsdfw