OAKLAND -Coming into the Cowboys' preseason opener against the Oakland Raiders, Alex Albright was not the most talked about linebacker on the Dallas depth chart.
There were more people tuning in to see DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lee in the first-team defense, or to find out where Victor Butler, Dan Connor and Bruce Carter fit into the depth chart. But it was Albright who might have carried the heaviest workload and put up the most impressive results Monday night.
Albright came into the game after the first-team defense was taken out, and by game's end he led the team in tackles with nine. In fact, in Monday's game he finished only two tackles short of his season total for 2011. Last season, Albright made the team as an undrafted free agent following 2011's training camp. He played all 16 games providing depth at linebacker and was a regular contributor on special teams.
Albright began making plays as soon as he was put on the field Monday night and was left in the game to play heavy minutes.
"When you get into these preseason games the stuff you plan for kind of gets thrown out the window," Albright said. "Guys are all over the field and depth charts get mixed up and whatnot. I expected to play a good amount, but not quite the amount that I did. I think I handled it well and the young guys handled it well and we had a pretty good game."
While Albright might have been the most impressive defensive player in the game, he is skeptical of anyone getting too carried away with praising his performance. He remains committed to focusing on getting better moving forward.
"You got to take it with a grain of salt," Albright said. "With every good thing I did, I'm sure I did a couple bad things. I'll clean it up tomorrow and hopefully I'll keep progressing and make some more plays the next game."
While many of the linebackers, including Albright, are in competition with each other for playing time, he recognizes that they are all part of one defensive unit and he is pleased with the progress they are making together. He spoke of the strides the defense has made in his second year with the team.
"Last year we were locked out and rookies didn't have an opportunity to have mini-camp," said Albright. "It was a lot more hectic. But now we've had opportunities to learn Rob (Ryan's) defense and I feel like we're a lot more comfortable."
During a point in training camp when the Cowboys were missing a few tight ends from injuries, Albright, who is 6-5 and 260 pounds, stepped in and took a few reps so that the offense could get its normal amount of practice reps.
After the game Albright joked that he would continue to do whatever the coaching staff asked of him, but that at no point of the game did he ask to take a few snaps at tight end.
"No, not yet," Albright said. "Their play calls still sound like Spanish to me so I'm still trying to focus on defense."
Albright may have led the team in tackles with nine, but the number that he was a little more proud of was zero. The Raiders were unable to put any points on the board against the Cowboys defense and Albright claims that the there is some significance to the shutout.
"Yeah, absolutely," Albright said. "It's big for morale, especially for the defense. That's what we strive to do. Even if it is preseason, it's still something big. It's tough to shut out teams in this league."