Despite completing four weeks of OTAs and mini-camp practices, several things remain unsettled for the Cowboys. When the team reports to training camp on July 28 in Oxnard, Calif., several questions still need answers.
The staff writers at DallasCowboys.com – Rob Phillips, David Helman, Nick Eatman and Bryan Broaddus – will attempt to answer these questions before the start of training camp.
Today, the staff continues the series by predicting a winner in the expected left guard competition between incumbent starter Ronald Leary and rookie La'el Collins:
6) Do you expect La'el Collins to challenge Ronald Leary at left guard?
Rob Phillips: Quick story on Ron Leary: I chatted with him on his official pre-draft visit to Valley Ranch in 2012, and to this day he's the only draft prospect I've encountered who wore a full suit and tie on an official visit. I'm sure he's not the only guy ever to show up dressed for a board meeting, but here's my point: From Day One, Leary has been about business. The Cowboys signed him as an undrafted free agent that year, and he's been a focused, serious-minded pro ever since. No doubt that's helped him earn a starting job and keep it the last two years. Collins has a lot of talent, and the Cowboys wouldn't have recruited him so heavily if they didn't see star potential. But Leary takes his job very seriously, and it's no coincidence DeMarco Murray ran so effectively to the left side behind Leary and Tyron Smith. I think left guard will be an interesting competition, but I expect Leary to win it with Collins starting his NFL career as a swing guard/tackle backup. Pretty nice luxury for the O-Line.
Nick Eatman: To me, Ron Leary is like Kyle Kosier from a few years ago. That offensive line had three Pro Bowlers – Gurode, Flozell and Leonard Davis. But if you asked Romo about the stars on the line, he'd always talk about Kosier and how important he was to the group. That's how I see Leary, who never gets the pub as the other three. And therefore, you just sort of view him as a weak link. I don't think J.J. Watt would say that considering how well Leary played him last year. So no, I don't think Collins or anyone beats out Leary. I think Collins sticks at OT and will eventually be the swing tackle there and ready to take over the RT spot next year.
Bryan Broaddus:I am usually not one of those guys that say it can never happen but in this case – I feel that it is going to be very difficult for La'el Collins to beat Ronald Leary out for his starting spot. As much as I like Collins and what he brings to this offensive line for the future he is not ready to take this job. The Cowboys have been extremely fortunate to have drafted some players in their offensive line that have been "plug and play" types – I just don't see that with Collins at this point. I am not saying that Collins cannot one day develop into an outstanding player but where he is clearly behind Leary is in his technique and experience. Leary and Tyron Smith have done an outstanding job of working together on that left side where as a duo they have been ranked as one of the best in the league when it comes to yards per carry behind them. As a coaching staff you just don't break that combination up without having good reason and in this case they don't. La'el Collins will have his day to start – it just won't be this season.[embeddedad0]
David Helman: If you had asked me when Collins signed, I would have been right there with the chorus of voices calling for the rookie to plug-and-play, just like Travis Frederick and Zack Martin. In that time span, though, I have talked to Ron Leary and watched him practice. I don't think the veteran is going to be so keen to surrender his job. It's easy to hear that and knock Collins for failing to seize the starting spot, but Leary has been a solid player for this team for two years. He gets labeled as an undrafted free agent, but he likely would have been a much higher pick if not for concerns about his knee. None of that is a knock on Collins – I'm confident he'll be a starter for this team in the near future. But I think Leary's talent is underrated, and he'll be able to fend the youngster off in 2015.
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