Hoping For His Chance

IRVING, Tex. - When he was signed out of the University of Maryland as an undrafted free agent, nobody envisioned Phil Costa would be starting for the Dallas Cowboys in 2010, much less in the seventh game of the season.

But that is a very real possibility as the reeling Cowboys, whose record dipped to 1-5 with Monday night's loss to the New York Giants, try to get back on track at noon Sunday when the Jacksonville Jaguars come to town.

Starting left guard Kyle Kosier is recovering from a strained right Achilles tendon, and his replacement, Montrae Holland, left Monday's game with a strained groin, thrusting Costa into the lineup for the first time. It has not yet been determined if Holland will return in time to face the Jaguars — neither he nor Kosier practiced Wednesday — but if Costa is named the starter, he said he'll be ready.

"It helps, getting that experience in (the New York) game," he said. "This is the opportunity you look for. Whether they go with me or Montrae, I'm going to prepare like I'm starting."

Costa played center in his last season at Maryland, but it's not as if this season is his first foray at guard; before taking over as the Terrapins' center in his final year in College Park, he started for a full season at each of the guard positions.

Costa readily admitted that he has a lot on which he can improve after his performance against the Giants, but he said that overall, he was pleased with his effort. The improvement, he said, will come on the practice field, starting this week.

"Without a doubt, I have a lot of room for improvement," he said. "But I did OK. What I have to do now is build on that. I've got to practice like I'm starting, even if Montrae comes back."

His performance Monday was aided, Costa said, by in-game feedback from the veteran linemen, who pulled the rookie aside to offer critiques of his technique or insight into what opponents might be trying to do against him. Costa said he absorbed every possible bit of the expert information.

"We always talk a lot on the sideline, so that wasn't new," he said. "Actually, I try to listen a lot. When Kyle and Montrae were in there, I was always listening to what the coaches and the (other offensive linemen) told them, because I'm not getting any better if I don't. There's always a lot to talk about."

Sunday's game also offers Costa a chance for a reunion of sorts with Jacksonville defensive tackle Tyson Alualu, the Jaguars' first-round draft pick whose Cal Bears tangled with Costa's Terrapins twice while the two were in school. The teams split the two games, and Costa said an individual winner couldn't accurately be determined.

"We didn't go head-to-head as much as you might think, because they moved him around a lot," he said. "But he's a really good player. He's quick, and very strong. He's good now, and he's going to get better."

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