*(Editor's Note: Throughout the offseason, DallasCowboys.com staff writers will take a closer look at the roster, analyzing each player's impact last season and how he fits into the team's 2013 plans. Today's Roster Rundown entry features guard Ron Leary.) *
Name: Ron Leary
Experience: 1 season
Key stat:Leary likely had more reps in training camp than any player, and he did so at both guard and center with the Cowboys banged up on the offensive line. He was on the practice squad for most of the season before getting signed to the roster for the final two weeks.
Contract Status:Signed through 2014.
How He Played In 2012:
I remember before the 2012 NFL Draft taking look at Ronald Leary's game tape from Memphis and coming away impressed that, despite the fact that his squad was badly behind in many of their games, he continued to fight hard through the game, playing with toughness and technique. Leary was a left tackle in college, but also played some right guard as well. He showed good feet and the ability to sit down on his man or work him by the quarterback if the rusher was able to get up the field on him. I thought he was quick on the down block and stayed after the block. He played with the ability to get some push in the running game and some pop and shock in his hands as well. I did know that he had a history of some knee problems, but I still thought that he was worthy of consideration for a draft pick. When Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett met the media after the draft and announced that he had signed a deal as a free agent contract, I liked the fit from what I had seen. In Oxnard, Leary received plenty of work because of the shape that the guards were in injury-wise, and this wasn't a bad thing. But it was clear that there was still plenty for him to have to learn mentally, which set him back a few times in practice. Like on his college tape, Leary battled hard, but coming out of camp he didn't do enough to grab a spot on the 53-man roster and started the season on the practice squad, which was the correct spot for him. From talking to folks weekly who watched practice, they felt like he got a little better because it allowed him to settle into a spot and he received work against Jason Hatcher and Josh Brent, along with picking up blitzes from Sean Lee and Bruce Carter. To me, there was never a question about the physical side of his game, but more the mental one. As a reward, Leary got a taste of the 53 the last two weeks of the season against New Orleans and Washington, but was inactive those two games. [embedded_ad]
How He Fits:
It is clear that the club is weighing its options at guard. There are several draft prospects making the trip to Valley Ranch in the next couple of days to meet with the front office and coaches. Leary, along with David Arkin, will be the holdovers as backups from 2012 with Leary holding an advantage in my view, which makes this a very important offseason for him. There were traits I observed on his college tape, plus things we were able to see from him early camp, that led you to believe he could develop. What needs to happen for this squad is that Leary makes that jump like Barry Church and Dwayne Harris made in their level of play from one season to another. There were questions about them as well, but they committed themselves and it made a difference. The most important thing for Leary to do is develop the mental side of the game. Linemen tend to get better when they learn how to hold, trip and clip, but you also have to understand your responsibilities and assignments, which makes you a valuable piece of the puzzle. As soon as he gets that, he has a shot.
Nick Eatman:* *He was the most coveted of the undrafted free agents last year and the Cowboys even guaranteed a portion of his base salary to get him here. But after a grueling camp where he was taking a ton of snaps and had to learn two new positions at guard and center, Leary seemingly hit a wall. Still, he made good progress on the practice squad and I think he's the wild card again this year to possibly get some snaps at guard. With a full year under his belt, both at guard and in the weight room, let's see if Leary is ready to take the next step and compete for a job.