IRVING, Texas – A new running back in a new running back rotation naturally sparks interest and begs this question: What kind of role can Christine Michael have in the Cowboys' offense this season?
Less than a week after the team traded for the third-year veteran, head coach Jason Garrett is showing and preaching patience.
"He just got here," Garrett said. "We're trying to get him ready and as acclimated as quickly as we can."
In meeting the Dallas media Thursday for the first time, Michael echoed Garrett's day-to-day approach. Since arriving back in his home state from Seattle, he's been studying the Cowboys' playbook day and night.
"It's kind of the same scheme that Seattle had, just a little bit different terminology," Michael said. "But I feel like I got that down just after 72 hours. It's been good. I'm enjoying it.
"I try to take it a day at a time. I just try to focus on the plays right now, focus on what I can control, and that's me getting in my playbook, me coming out here and adjusting to this weather."
As a backup with the Seahawks, Michael had 52 carries for 254 yards in 14 games over two seasons. He enters a crowded backfield that already features Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden and Lance Dunbar, and Sunday might be too quick to make his Cowboys debut.
But the coaches like what they've seen so far from the former second-round pick.
"He got in two practices and is learning our system on the run and spending a bunch of extra time with (running backs) coach (Gary) Brown," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. "What he's shown is really positive. We like what we see. We think he's going to bring a lot to the table. But again, give him some time to pick up the system and we'll see how fast that takes us there."
When he is ready to play, what can he bring to the offense?
"He's got some real explosiveness," Linehan said. "He's a bigger back. Not tall, but doesn't necessarily have to be a tall guy. The profile of a running back isn't necessarily height. It's that build, that size. He's somewhere in the mid-(2)20s, has some really good speed. Got to see him play some significant plays in the NFL in a similar type running style as we run and see some things we really like."
A Cowboy for all of five days, Michael isn't thinking about what his ultimate role will be yet.
"Like I said, just study that playbook, get those play downs," he said, "And just try to help contribute whenever they call my number."
Garrett said Thursday morning that the coaching staff is still determining who will handle punt return duties Sunday against the Giants. Asked about it in the locker room, Cole Beasley said he wasn't sure – but he has a good idea.
"I don't know. Probably, though – definitely been working on it all week in practice," he said. "I'm going to be ready if they need me back there."
The other logical options are Lance Dunbar and Lucky Whitehead, but Beasley got a lot of work at the position when the Cowboys were winding down their training camp in Oxnard, Calif. Beasley has 10 career punt returns, averaging 6.8 yards per attempt.
Beasley said his experience receiving out of the slot can help him if given the opportunity to be the Cowboys' returner.
"You get the ball in your hands in space, so it's kind of the same. I guess just getting the ball and having time to look for room to run," he said.
Compare and Contrast
Few people would have a better bead on both Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham Jr. than members of the Dallas secondary. After all, the Cowboys' defensive backs faced Beckham twice in his rookie season, and they go against Dez in practice every day.
That doesn't make them identical challenges, as Barry Church was quick to point out. After all, Beckham stands 5-11, 200 pounds, while Bryant checks in at 6-2, 224.
"I feel like they're different players. I feel like Dez is a lot more physical," Church said. "But the similarity that they do have is they both go up for the ball – they both compete for the ball and fight for it."
Both receivers have a flair for circus catches, as well – as anyone who has watched them can attest. Church said perhaps only one receiver can match them in that regard.
"Both of their catch radiuses are unbelievable," he said. "As far as a player, I feel like they're different, but their catch radiuses and their ability to go get the ball are pretty much unmatched in the league almost – besides Calvin Johnson."
Zack Martin is still listed on the Cowboys' injury report after suffering a stinger in his neck on Aug. 18. On that injury report, though, he's listed as a full participant and said he's ready to go for Sunday night.
"I feel great," he said.
The second-year All-Pro has been wearing a neck roll for added protection since he returned to practice.
"I've worn one before, so it's not a big deal," he said.