No Longer Rookies

Right before the start of the season, Parcells said he told his veterans they couldn't afford to make many mistakes because the "rookies will make enough for all of us."  

So with the season coming to a close, has that really been the case?  

Cowboys middle linebacker Bradie James doesn't think so.  

"All rookies are going to make mistakes - that's just part of the game," said James, a third-year veteran who leads the team in tackles with 83. "But I wouldn't say these (rookies) have made a lot. They've come in here and played well and really helped us. We count on them a lot and they've come through."  

Indeed they have, but let's take an even closer look at the Cowboys rookies this season and just how integral each has been to this team's success.    

  • DeMarcus Ware - The team's first overall pick and 11th player selected in the draft, Ware certainly produced more in the first half of the season when he recorded four sacks. Here we are now in Week 15 and Ware is still sitting on four sacks. While he seems to be getting closer to that fifth sack each week, continuing to provide steady pressure, Parcells said Ware is simply "struggling along" here at the end.  

But think for a second if teams are playing him the same way now. Rarely is Ware going one-on-one with an offensive tackle without some kind of help from the guard, a tight end or even a chipping tailback.  

But double-teamed or not, the Cowboys need Ware to come up big here down the stretch and make plays like someone who was drafted 11th overall is expected to make.    

  • Marcus Spears - Parcells said he played his best game this past week, and it wasn't just because of his Johnny-on-the-spot fumble recovery and 59-yard return to set up a go-ahead touchdown. Spears seems to be figuring things out in the 3-4 defense, having started now the last seven games at left end.  

He has just 29 tackles (11th on defense) and only a half a sack, but his efforts on run defense often go unnoticed.    

  • Kevin Burnett - Played more last week than any other game this season and made a difference, registering his first career sack when he dropped Kansas City's Trent Green in the third quarter. Injuries slowed down his progress at the start of the season, but now with Al Singleton and Dat Nguyen both on injured reserve, Burnett is getting a chance to play more, both on defense and special teams. Here's his chance to prove he's a "keeper."    
  • Marion Barber - Like Burnett, he had a slow start, even being inactive for the second game of the season. But when Jones went down with an ankle injury, and Thompson and Anthony Thomas failed to step up as the primary backups, it opened the door for Barber, who will be battling Jones for carries and playing time down the stretch. Barber is the team's third-down back, but seems to be the best goal-line option as well, leading the team with five rushing touchdowns.      
  • Chris Canty There may not be a more consistent rookie than Canty this year, and certainly not a more surprising one. While the Cowboys knew there was a chance the rookie defensive end from Virginia could overcome major surgeries to his knee and left eye, there was no guarantee. But after missing only one week of training camp practice, Canty hasn't looked back, leading all defensive linemen with 29 tackles and has 2½ sacks. He's supplanted Greg Ellis as the starter at right defensive end because of his effectiveness against the run.    
  • Rob Petitti - The only offensive rookie to start every game, Petitti has had his share of highs and lows this season. But despite the Cowboys signing a trio of veteran tackles during the season, Petitti has remained in the starting lineup and arguably had his best game last week against the Chiefs. He's a work in progress but Parcells seems content to stick with him.    
  • Tyson Thompson - He wowed us early on with his speed, but we haven't seen much of that since. And it's not that he doesn't get the chance. But Thompson just hasn't been able to break loose on a kickoff return yet. His 49-yard return against Washington in Week Two remains his
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