When then rookie La'el Collins emerged as a potential star on the offensive line, Ronald Leary was moved out of the starting lineup in order for this star to shine. Though Collins delivered some highlight reel type blocks, and showed flashes of the greatness he so clearly possesses, there is no denying that Leary is currently the better player.
It made sense to start Collins. He, along with Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, and Chaz Green, are the future of the Cowboys offensive line. And in order for him to reach that star potential I recently alluded to, he needed to get these crucial reps early in his career.
With Collins now out for (possibly) the entire season, Ron Leary has been given another opportunity to prove the type of player that he is. No, his future probably won't include the Cowboys, but his present does. And in that present, Leary is playing some pretty good football.
From the very first series of the game, Ron Leary made his presence felt. One of the areas Leary has performed so well in is getting up to the second level and making his blocks in space.
Here, we see him as the wide puller and lead blocker for Elliott. He gets around Witten and locates the defensive back immediately. Then he is able to lock on to the defensive back and drive him towards the sideline.
Offensive linemen sometimes struggle when trying to block corners and safeties in space, but Leary does an excellent job of it on this play.
Leary once again shows his ability to climb and block in space, this time on an inside zone play. He does a nice job of making sure the 1-technique does not slant across his face, or beat Travis Frederick across his play-side shoulder.
Then, he climbs to the second level and locks onto the Bengals play-side linebacker. Leary's block on the linebacker springs Elliott into the third level of the defense, and allows him to convert for a big gain.
Leary is on the backside for this play, but his basic assignment does not change. He has to step play-side, keep his shoulders square, make sure the 3-technique does not come across his face, and then get up to the second level.
He does all of this perfection here, slowing up the 3-technique in order for Tyron Smith to cut him, and then absolutely man-handling Vontaze Burfict. Alfred Morris cuts right off of Leary's block for a big gain.
Ron Leary has been excelling in pass protection as well. Going against Pat Sims here, Leary is patient with his hands, allowing Sims to swipe but miss. Once Sims misses with his hands, Leary is able to lock onto him and keep him under control. Sims tries to recover with a bit of a bull rush, but Leary sinks his hips nicely and completes the block.
Let me reiterate, La'el Collins is the future left guard of the Dallas Cowboys. But at this point in his career, Ronald Leary is the more reliable and consistent option. Leary doesn't give you those same “highlight reel” blocks, but he does his job, and does it well.
When you tune into the Cowboys game this Sunday, I'm sure Joe Buck or Troy Aikman will mention that they are missing one of their starting offensive linemen in an effort to highlight an injury problem in Dallas. While this is technically true, the drop off between Collins and Leary is virtually non-existent.
To be honest, Leary seems to be the better option at this point in their careers, and the Dallas Cowboys offensive line is in good shape.