Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Dallas Cowboys [Print without images]

Sunday, May 26, 2013
Cowboys weekend mailbag: Can Ronald Leary earn a starting job?

By Calvin Watkins

It's a Memorial Day weekend and with that we hope you all stay safe. Now let's get to a combination of mailbag and twitter questions.

Q: Do you think Ronald Leary can beat out Nate Livings for the starting job? Denaldo Miller (Bahamas)

PODCAST
ESPN Dallas Cowboys Insider Nate Newton joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett from Valley Ranch with the latest news from Cowboys OTAs.

Listen Listen
A: I love the Bahamas. Enjoyed the four days I stayed out there. I'm not sure about Leary's chances. Livings has lost some weight and plans on becoming a better player in 2013. Leary also lost some weight and is trying to gain some strength for the coming year. Livings most likely will maintain the starting left guard spot, however, Leary's improvement should get him a spot on the 53-man roster. If he's on the active roster in 2013 and not a starter, it's not the end of the world, he has chance to do that in 2014.

Q: If they put Jermey Parnell at right tackle and Doug Free at right guard, maybe this center (Travis Frederick) works out well. @JSouthernSkills

A: Let's be clear, Free can't play guard, his skill set is suited for tackle. Parnell and Free will compete for the starting right tackle spot. Whoever loses the battle will become the swing tackle. The right guard is Mackenzy Bernadeau unless David Arkin, Kevin Kowalski or Leary outplay him in training camp and the preseason.

Q: This may sound dumb, but since he's not suspended could (Josh Brent) theoretically work with the team at OTAs? Not that they'd let him. @MarkStarrett

A: Brent can workout at Valley Ranch anytime he wants and the team has encouraged him to do so. However, Brent is not participating in team activities at Valley Ranch because the Cowboys don't want to cause a distraction and instead they want him to focus on his legal situation. He's got a court date coming up in September, and Brent's lawyer is trying to reach a plea deal with the Dallas County District Attorneys office. Brent's got bigger issues than whether or not he's practicing in OTAs.

Q: How will our defensive line hold up vs. David Wilson, Alfred Moris and LeSean McCoy this coming season? @Jesse_Lazy

A: The Cowboys finished 22nd against the run in the NFL last season minus nose tackle Jay Ratliff for a bulk of the season and eventually without Brent the last three weeks. I expect the Cowboys' run defense to improve under defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli in 2013. Marinelli is pushing for more speed up front and despite the ages of the front four of this is a solid group. When Marinelli was in Chicago, the Bears finished 8th in 2012 and fifth in 2011 against the run. Marinelli is one of the better coaches in the league and of course, Kiffin is a legendary figure. Cowboys, if they stay healthy, should be better against the run. Now it doesn't guarantee success, but the expectations are the run defense should improve.

Q: What are we going to do for a running game this year? Anyone on the free agent market we're looking at? @MarlonCTaylor

A: The Cowboys are done in the free agent market, baring an injury to one of their primary players. DeMarco Murray is the starter and because of durability issues, the team used a fifth-round pick on Joseph Randle to become the backup potential starter. Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner are competing for a roster spot. Cowboys want to stick with younger players at this position. One player to watch during the summer is Kendial Lawrence, the rookie from Missouri. If he impresses the coaches and scouts this summer, he could surpass Dunbar and Tanner on the depth chart.

Q: Is Drew Brees a below average QB? Saints went 7-9 last year? @stefano15

A: You must be referring to my blog post earlier in the day about Tony Romo being an average quarterback. Romo isn't average, he's a good one. Let's be honest about this, prior to the 7-9 season with the Saints, Brees went 37-10 as a starter and led the NFL in passing yards and touchdowns four times. Last season, Brees set a NFL record by throwing a touchdown in 48 consecutive games, a mark set by Johnny Unitas 50-years ago. Brees is an elite quarterback. One 7-9 season doesn't erase that.