Editor's Note: Throughout the off-season, DallasCowboys.com staff writers will take a closer look at the roster, analyzing players’ impact last season and how each fits into the team's 2014 plans. Today's Roster Rundown entry features guard
Name: Ronald Leary
Experience: 2 seasons
Key stat: After being promoted from the practice squad at the end of the 2012 season, Leary started all 16 games at left guard in 2013.
Contract Status: Signed through 2014.
2013 Impact: I clearly remember after the 2012 NFL Draft, sitting in that team meeting room listening to Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones recap how he felt he and the staff were able to add players to their club.
As Jones went through the players, he came to the addition of Ronald Leary, a young tackle out of Memphis. Jones was almost giddy in describing Leary and what he could potentially bring to the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent. At the time, I understood what Jones was feeling because in my own pre-draft study, I had Leary as a player that I would have considered in the fifth round.
At Memphis, Leary played on a poor team record-wise, but what I appreciated the most about his ability was no matter how bad the game was going, he still attempted to play at a high level. There was no quit or give up in his game and that showed me a great deal. Leary’s career started on the practice squad then through his work each week on the scout team, he worked his way onto the 53 man roster and finished the 2012 season there.
The 2013 campaign was a different season for Leary, with improvements in the weight room in the offseason and a better understanding of where he needed to be preparation-wise each week. Leary was able to win this job in the minicamps and OTA’s when Nate Livings was struggling with his knee problems and was unable to answer the bell to start the season.
What was impressive about Leary was how quickly he was able to adjust working with
Leary, like Frederick, was basically a rookie in experience, and there were times where he played like that when it came to adjusting to certain schemes. But for the most part, he was right where he needed to be and gave this line stability at that left guard spot.
Where He Fits: Leary will go into his third season as the starter at left guard with the positive experiences he had in 2013. There were plenty of questions about whether he would have been able to hold up.
Based on what we have seen from him, that should not be an issue going forward. He has always been a player that played with natural power and strength but with another year of growth and development, he should return even better. Where there is a concern for Leary is with his knee. He has a condition that he deals with in his knee that is degenerative and so far, he has managed to play through the pain and soreness. There is no question of his toughness and as long as he is able to deal with it, he will be on that field.
David Helman: It’s funny to remember how much uncertainty surrounded Leary in the 2013 preseason. He took the starting spot at left guard when it became apparent Nate Livings wouldn’t be able to go, but he quickly went out with a knee problem of his own. Leary had a knee scope in mid-August, and his status for the season opener was in doubt. Flash forward to the end of the year, and Leary is an entrenched starter between Smith and Frederick. As Bryan mentioned, the Cowboys had great success running to the left side of their line, thanks to the partnership of Leary and Smith. The Cowboys have to be encouraged that their young guard didn’t have a single injury issue during the season, and it certainly looks like this team has the left side of its line established for the foreseeable future.