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Last Time Out: Looking At The Guards & Centers
(Editor’s Note: In conjunction with the DallasCowboys.com position series, here’s a look back at how each player performed last season, continuing with the guards/centers.)
Ronald Leary - Leary went from undrafted rookie in 2012 to practice squad member to active squad member to full-time starter in a short period, eventually starting all 16 games as the Cowboys’ left guard in 2013. The plan heading into last season was for Leary to work his way to becoming a starter, and he didn’t disappoint next to Tyron Smith. The health of his knees have always been a question, but he didn’t miss a game in 2013.
Mackenzy Bernadeau - Bernadeau went from starter to backup when Brian Waters was ready to go, but it didn’t hurt his attitude or his play in 2013. Bernadeau started the first three games before Waters took over at right guard, but Bernadeau returned as the starter after an injury to Waters. The unheralded guard started the final eight games of the season with a lot of success.
Travis Frederick - The Cowboys were largely criticized for selecting Frederick in the first round in 2013, but it was the center who got the last laugh. Frederick would go on to become the first rookie in Cowboys history to start all 16 games at center, making the Pro Football Writers of America’s All-Rookie team in the process.
Zack Martin - He started all 13 games at left tackle last season at Notre Dame and started 52 career games in college, setting the school record. The majority of the 2013 New Era Pinstripe Bowl MVP’s starts came at left tackle, but the former Notre Dame captain was capable of playing just about anywhere on the line. Martin was the star of an Irish line that allowed just eight sacks in 2013.
Uche Nwaneri - Nwaneri was drafted by the Jags in 2007 and has started for them since 2008, rarely missing any action. Nwaneri started all 16 games last season for Jacksonville and has only missed one game in the last four years, but he was cut this offseason. He’s started 92 of his 104 games played in the league.
Ronald Patrick - Patrick was a second-year starter last year at right guard for South Carolina. He dealt with a high ankle sprain, which snapped a 19 consecutive start streak dating back to the previous season, but he was able to start in 12 games last year and made 25 career starts for the Gamecocks.
Brian Clarke - Clarke helped lead Bloomsburg to the sixth-ranked rushing attack in Division II football last year and finished third in voting for the Gene Upshaw Award for the nation’s best D-II lineman. The starting guard was dominant for Bloomsburg, getting multiple honors bestowed upon him.
Andre’ Cureton – Cureton started seven of 13 games for the Bearcats last season, getting the most playing time of his career. The year prior, he played in four games but didn’t start any. His inclusion on the Cowboys’ roster is more about potential than the past.
Scout’s Take – Bryan Broaddus on what he’s looking for in 2014: I am always interested to see how teams work and build the interior of their offensive line. In the case of the Cowboys, how this is constructed is of vital importance for one simple reason, Tony Romo. Over the years we have all grown accustom to Romo’s ability to avoid the rush from the edges but rarely does it escape when it comes through the center of the pocket. When Romo is at his absolute best, is when the front of the pocket is clean. When he can keep his eyes down the field, then step up, there is always a chance for a huge play. From early observations, it appears that Zack Martin will start at right guard and Travis Frederick at center. What we don’t know is who will be on that left side? Whether its Ronald Leary or Mackenzy Bernadeau, there will be a powerful man at that spot which is important in order to help set the depth of the pocket. The combination of these players will ensure that this front office will get exactly that type of protection that they have been working to build the last three seasons through the draft and free agency.