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Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Random Thoughts: Is Ronald Leary a future starter?

By Calvin Watkins

We have some random thoughts following the Cowboys' 34-31 overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday and heading into the regular-season finale:

1. Last weekend, the Cowboys prevented another NFL team from signing guard Ronald Leary off their practice squad roster. Leary was elevated to the active roster and while he was inactive for the Saints game Sunday this moves tells you plenty about his future. The Cowboys value Leary because of his progression at guard. He came in with concerns about his knee, which doesn't seem to be an issue right now. Offensive line coach Bill Callahan said Leary has gotten better from when he first arrived at Valley Ranch as an undrafted free agent from Memphis. If the Cowboys want to go in another direction at center -- Phil Costa endured health problems in 2012 -- maybe Mackenzy Bernadeau moves from right guard in 2013. Leary could compete for that spot along with Kevin Kowalski. Of course this all changes should the Cowboys draft a center. Given the money spent in free agency on Nate Livings and Bernadeau this past offseason, at least $30 million combined, it's doubtful if the Cowboys want another free-agent guard. Maybe Leary is the answer.

2. DeMarcus Ware most likely will make his seventh consecutive Pro Bowl when the NFC team is announced this week. The 2012 season hasn't been one of Ware's better ones. Hamstring, neck, elbow and shoulder problems have hurt his ability to rush the passer at times. He's still a dangerous man on the field, and he will get doubled from time to time, but opponents are noticing Ware's struggles. He was asked how he felt following Sunday's loss to the Saints and said, "like (expletive)." Ware is tied for seventh in the NFL with 11.5 sacks and combines with Anthony Spencer's 10 to form a solid duo for the Cowboys. But if Ware's health hadn't bothered him this season, the sack and most likely the pressure totals would be higher.

3. What makes the Saints game a difficult one to deal with from a defensive standpoint is the lack of pressures on Drew Brees (two hurries and zero sacks) and the zero turnovers. Out of 13 offensive possessions, the Saints scored six times and missed a 36-yard field goal. So in essence that's seven potential scoring drives the Cowboys defense allowed. Yes, the Cowboys are dealing with injuries on defense but at some point players need to make plays for Rob Ryan. One thing cornerback Mike Jenkins said after the loss was that players, especially the new ones, understand the scheme but are thinking too much and not playing on instinct. It seems the veteran players such as Dan Connor, Ernie Sims, Brady Poppinga and Charlie Peprah know what to do within the scheme, but injuries and Ryan's mixing and matching are messing things up right now. The Cowboys have just one game to solve these problems.