Nick Eatman DallasCowbys.com Staff Writer July 16 2004, 5:53 p.m. (CDT) (Editor's Note: This is the fifth of a 10-part series, DallasCowboys.com analyzing the Cowboys position-by-position as they begin final preparations for the July 31 start to training camp. Today will feature the offensive line.) IRVING, Texas -- At the beginning of the off-season, it looked as if the offensive line would get a major facelift. Not because a lot of changes would be made, but that the end to a glorious era for one of the best lineman in club history had arrived. Larry Allen, an eight-time Pro Bowler, was being shopped around just before the draft. He visited the Lions and Raiders, but when he wasn't willing to make major changes to his contract, any and all trade possibilities eventually disappeared. Then, in a miraculous turnaround, Allen and head coach Bill Parcells seemed to patched up the differences they had last season. And those issues mainly involved Allen's conditioning, which seemingly has vastly improved over last season. If Allen can keep his weight down and his stamina up, Parcells and the Cowboys can expect the left guard to return for his 11th season. And when Allen is on his game, it certainly helps his partner to the left, tackle Flozell Adams, who enjoyed a career season last year. Adams, who signed a five-year, $25 million contract last off-season, earned every penny in 2003, proficiently protecting Quincy Carter's blind side and earning his first trip to the Pro Bowl. If Allen is there, coupled with Adams, the left side of the line gives the Cowboys a strong side to run behind, just as they've had for so many years in the past. But questions marks aplenty pop up when moving further right along the offensive line. Take the center position, where it appeared the Cowboys would enter training camp with three players battling for the starting job. However, an injury to veteran Gennaro DiNapoli will hurt his chances to compete for that starting job. DiNapoli suffered a stress fracture in his right ankle towards the end of the June mini-camp, and his four-to-six week rehab will likely run into the first week of training camp. That gives an advantage to both Al Johnson and Tyson Walter, who actually went into last year's camp competing for the same job. As it turned out, Johnson needed only a week to surpass Walter and Matt Lehr for the starting position at center. However, soon after taking over, Johnson suffered a season-ending knee injury, which required microfracture surgery just two weeks into camp. Walter was eventually replaced at center by Matt Lehr, who started all 16 games a year ago. Lehr split some time over the first seven games with DiNapoli, but then took over for good when the veteran backup was lost for the year with a high ankle sprain. As for Lehr, he's been moved to guard for now. Although Parcells said in June if neither of the three centers emerge as a surefire starter, he knows what he has in Lehr and that he could return as the starting center. But Cowboys' preference would be for Johnson to outright win the job, and for that to happen, Johnson must prove he's fully recovered from a knee surgery which has proven to be a difficult recovery for lineman. The early returns, though, seem favorable. Johnson was able to participate in the mini-camps, and he'll just have to knock off the rust this summer since he hasn't played in an actual game since the end of his final season (2002) at Wisconsin. Walter might not win a starting job, but he can be a valuable commodity, having the ability to play all five positions, if needed. He's probably best suited to play center/guard in the NFL. At right guard, Andre Gurode is expected to return to his starting spot. He started 15 games last year, but was benched by Parcells in Philadelphia to get his attention after committing too many mental errors in previous games. Gurode led the team in pre-snap penalties, but his size and strength should be good enough to keep him in the starting lineup if he's up to speed with his assignments. But the second-round pick in 2002 might feel some heat from rookie Stephen Peterman, a third-round pick from LSU. Some Cowboys officials call Peterman a "nasty" player who is tough enough to handle the tribulations of being a rookie. Now moving down the line to right tackle, where the Cowboys had two players start eight games apiece at the position last year. But neither - at this point - is among the three-man competition for the starting job. Ryan Young started eight games a year ago, but couldn't overcome chronic knee injuries, which led to his release this March and will likely end his career. Kurt Vollers started the remaining eight games at right tackle, but the Cowboys have decided to move him to the left side to back up Adams. In a similar situation to Lehr, Parcells knows what Vollers can do at right tackle, and wants to get a better feel for three young players. Plus, the Cowboys must develop a legitimate backup to Adams. So for the start of training camp, the three young players Parcells will evaluate at right tackle are second-round draft choice Jacob Rogers, second-year lineman Torrin Tucker and fourth-year veteran Javiar Collins. Rogers, the former Southern Cal standout, played three years at left tackle, but the Cowboys drafted him 52nd overall with the hopes he could make the transition to the right side. However, Rogers might not be ready this year, meaning Tucker, who still needs some polishing himself, could be asked to start this year. He played guard in college and spent last year making the adjustment to tackle. Tucker played in seven games, earning a start against the Dolphins on Thanksgiving. The Cowboys will also give Collins another chance to win a starting spot. Entering his fourth year in the NFL, Collins spent all of last season on the 53-man roster, but was inactive for every games. Other lineman to keep an eye on include Tango McCauley, one of the best players in the Canadian Football League (CFL) last year, and DeMingo Graham, a five-year veteran who has 27 career starts. (Next: Tight End) FITTING IN Offensive Tackles: Flozell Adams: Coming off best season of his career, earning a Pro Bowl spot. He benefits from having Allen next to him. Another Pro Bowl season might make him one of the NFL's elite tackles. Jacob Rogers: A superb left tackle in college, Rogers now has to make the switch to the right side, and do it quickly. He might not start on opening day, but don't be surprised if he ends up there this year. Torrin Tucker: Still learning the position, but he might be more polished than Rogers right now. The Cowboys obviously liked what they saw from Tucker last year. He'll get plenty of looks. Kurt Vollers: Probably asking himself why he's not getting the chance to start at right tackle, like he did eight times last year. But Parcells knows Vollers' game, and needs a stable backup to Adams. Javiar Collins: Likely his last chance to do something. This is his fourth season, so Collins must come on strong in training camp or he might not make it to the regular season. Dave Volk: Spent the last two years on the practice squad, but played well at guard in NFL Europe. Volk might end up playing guard and tackle in camp, but he can't end up on the practice squad again. Darrick Sanders: Undrafted rookie dominated at Division III Arkansas-Monticello. He's got the size, but does he have the technique and footwork to play well in the NFL? Guards/Centers: Larry Allen: Looked like a goner in April. Now he's back, and looks to be in his best condition in several years. Some people around Valley Ranch have wondered out loud if Allen "finally gets it." Matt Lehr: Started all 16 games at center last year, but has been moved to guard. Has played both positions in three years with the club. Still, his best chance to start will be at center if one of the three candidates fails to materialize. Al Johnson: The Cowboys have their fingers crossed he can return from the season-ending knee surgery his rookie year. The former second-round pick is the favorite to win the starting job. Andre Gurode: Parcells stays on his case constantly, and that might be the way to get Gurode motivated. He was benched for a game last year because of penalties. But Gurode still has the talent to be a great player. Stephen Peterman: This rookie might get the chance to play right away, and will likely push Gurode for a starting job. What he might lack in athleticism, he makes up for with toughness and strength. Tyson Walter: Considered one of the smartest players on the team. Walter can play all five positions on the line, and that alone makes him a valuable backup, even if he doesn't start at center. Gennaro DiNapoli: Stress fracture in his right ankle might hurt his chances to compete with Johnson and Walter for the starting center job. He can play both guard and center, which is valuable to Parcells. Tango McCauley: The Cowboys gave McCauley a $100,000 signing bonus in the off-season. That's at least one reason why he'll get an opportunity to earn a roster spot. DeMingo Graham: A five-year veteran, Graham was out of football last year, but the Cowboys are hoping he can provide some depth at either guard or tackle. Thomas Herrion: Was invited to the rookie camp as a "workout" player, but showed enough in three days to get a call back and a contract. The 320-pounder has nice footwork for his size.