When the Cowboys report to training camp next week in Oxnard, Calif., several questions will still need to be answered.
The staff writers at DallasCowboys.com – Rowan Kavner, David Helman, Nick Eatman and Bryan Broaddus – will attempt to answer these questions before the start of training camp. The questions will vary in importance, with the most pressing topics getting brought up in the days closest to camp.
Today, the staff tries to predict who will be the Cowboys' starter at left guard when they take on the 49ers on Sept. 7.
6) Who Starts At Left Guard When Cowboys Open Season?
Rowan Kavner: Barring any sort of unanticipated NFL punishment after Ron Leary pleaded no-contest to a drunk driving charge that occurred back in September 2012, I think he's going to once again be the Cowboys' starting left guard. The offensive line looked as good as it has in years in 2013, and they don't want to lose that momentum heading into 2014 after adding Zack Martin. I think they'll try to keep the rest of that line as similar as possible, hoping Leary and Tyron Smith build off a strong 2013 season next to Travis Frederick. Much of the Cowboys' running success came running behind that left side. Undoubtedly, the competition at left guard between Leary and Bernadeau will be one of the best in training camp, but I think ultimately Martin's addition is the only change from last year's starting lineup.
David Helman: A lot is made of chemistry when it comes to an offensive line. The longer a group works together, the more efficient and more effective they can be. It takes a lot of reps to get the line working cohesively and with an innate understanding of each other. For that reason, I think Ronald Leary has the edge to keep his spot as the starting left guard. The expectation is that Leary isn't going to receive any league discipline for his 2012 DWI, which means he won't be at any disadvantage for playing time. Last season, the Cowboys' stats when rushing to the left were better across the board than those on the right. The team averaged seven yards per rush on the rare occasion that they ran off left guard and 5.3 when they ran off left tackle. The tandem Leary and Tyron Smith formed on the left side was impressive, and I think they'll maintain that momentum at training camp and in the preseason. [embedded_ad]
Nick Eatman: Nothing that has occurred in the last few days regarding Leary makes me feel this way, but I'm going with Mackenzy Bernadeau. I just think when it's all said and done he's a better player. I know when Brian Waters arrived last year that he replaced him in the starting lineup but towards the end of the year, I think Bernadeau was the best guard on the team. This year, he's been injury-free for the offseason, which is a first for him, and I think he's better equipped to win the job. Of course, playing the younger Leary would seemingly be a better long-term solution. But this head coach – and most of the assistants – don't have a lot of time to worry about the future. Winning games now is the only thing that matters and if that's the case, you play the best player. In my opinion it'll be Bernadeau. [embedded_ad]
Bryan Broaddus: This battle between Ronald Leary and Mackenzy Bernadeau reminds me of a heavy weight boxing match. To be the champ, you have to beat the champ. If Mackenzy Bernadeau is going to take this starting job away from Ronald Leary, he is going to have to clearly out play him leaving no question. With that being said, this will be one of the better training camp battles this summer because Bill Callahan and Frank Pollack are going to make it that way. When practice opens in Oxnard, Leary will be the starter but my gut tells me that Bernadeau will have his shot to run with the first offense the very next day. We will most likely see this battle going back and forth until after the Miami game, than after that time, I believe that Ronald Leary will be named the starter when all is said and done then the group will begin work getting ready for that 49ers game opening day.