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Scout's Notebook: Eye On Matt Johnson; QB Stephens Responds
Some thoughts from the practice field in Oxnard:
Jason Garrett always talks of opportunity and how young players need to take advantage of it. With Nate Livings on the sideline for the next two to four weeks, Ronald Leary has a shot to take this starting left guard job over and never give it back. Leary has been working well since returning from that early season calf injury. Other than David Arkin, he has been the guard that has received the most work with rookie center Travis Frederick this year so there is an advantage there.
Matt Johnson continues to work his way back in the role of an everyday football player after struggling through an injury plague rookie season that landed him on the injured reserve in 2012. He will run with the second defense this weekend paired with rookie J.J. Wilcox and it should be interesting how they both perform due to this being their first action in a NFL game. Johnson has looked confident and comfortable in his defensive reps but he also plays on the majority of the special teams which will allow him another avenue to prove his worth on this 53 man roster.
There has been a great deal of buzz around camp this week about quarterback Alex Tanney and how he might perform this preseason but I will be interested to see how Nick Stephens responds as well to his opportunity to play. I do not believe that Stephens is as quick to get rid of the ball as Tanney but he does have arm strength and is not afraid to try to fit the ball into some spots. In observing him during practice and on the field, he appears to have a nice understanding of what he needs to do assignment wise, without busts or struggles that rookie quarterbacks tend to have to deal with. At this point, I do not see them carrying a third quarterback with plenty of other spots on this roster that need attention. If that was the case once again, could either Stephens or Tanney be playing for a practice squad spot? Last season, Orton ran the scout team the entire year but how Stephens or Tanney play this summer could make this front office and coaching staff make that call.
The more I sit back and evaluate the situation at guard on this team, I understand what this front office is trying to do. I agree that there are times where you run out of bodies to practice with and struggle to play these preseason games. But adding veteran players that can no longer play is not an option that anyone wants to go through. I have seen Brandon Moore of formerly of New York Jets play, Bill Callahan even coached him there. His days are done, he has even said his days are done announcing that he was going to retire. I remember Bill Parcells telling me, if a player is talking about retiring, he has done retired. Brian Watters sat out the entire 2012 season, if he was interesting in really playing, wouldn’t he have reached out to the club this spring got in shape and made another run at it? Geoff Hangartner was just released from the Panthers yesterday. He has experience playing both center and guard but he is very similar in playing ability to Ryan Cook who is struggling to keep his spot on the roster. Let’s just see what they have in Ronald Leary, maybe Travis Frederick makes the switch later in camp but give it time because just because a player has a name or experience doesn’t make him the best fit.