IRVING, Texas – Week One is here, and the Cowboys' projected starting offensive line is the same dominant five from 2014.
That means, of course, Ronald Leary never relinquished his left guard spot despite many observers' predictions that undrafted first-round talent La'el Collins would instantly slide into the starting lineup the way past first-rounders Tyron Smith (2011), Travis Frederick (2013) and Zack Martin (2014) did.
Collins is expected to begin the season as a backup guard with veteran Mackenzy Bernadeau. The Cowboys have high hopes for Collins' long-term potential, but Leary was an underrated part of the line's success on the left side next to All-Pro tackle Smith last year, and he clearly retained his job with a strong training camp despite back spasms that sidelined him for a bit.
"Very impressed," head coach Jason Garrett said recently. "It really doesn't matter where guys come from; it matters what you do. We made that abundantly clear to everybody and Ron Leary stepped up and competed each and every day. He said, 'I want to be your left guard.'
"He didn't say it out loud; he just said it with his play. We're hoping the other guys do the same thing. That is really good for your team when that happens."
Said Leary recently: "I'm a big competitive guy. My offensive line that I play with, they know I'm real competitive. Nothing wrong with a little extra fuel to it."
This week, Leary and the line are focused on stopping a Giants defensive line that's known for bringing pressure under returning defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who directed the team's championship defense in 2007.
The Cowboys' line was never completely whole in the four preseason games, with every starter but Frederick missing a little time due to injury at some point in training camp. With Zack Martin expected to return from a stinger this week, the line should have all five starters back, and Leary doesn't expect much collective rust.
"I think we'll be all right," Leary said. "We had four-fifths of us out there (in the third preseason game). That was big. I know Zack; he's a pro about it, so he's going to come in and be ready. I know we'll all be ready for Week One."