OXNARD, Calif. – It must have been a great feeling for Ryan Russell to walk off the practice field and hear something nice.
It's been a long-running joke throughout training camp that the rookie defensive end is the favorite target of defensive coordinator. When Marinelli begins screaming, it's a good bet that No. 99 is at fault.
However bad it might sound, the fifth-round pick said it's easy to see the positive in the situation.
"I mean, you have to definitely listen to the message. Sometimes it's not how it's said, but the fact that he's on me so hard means he expects a lot from me, he sees a lot in me," Russell said. "I definitely want to respond immediately and get better and make them proud and make myself proud."
Russell took steps in that direction on Sunday night against San Francisco. The Cowboys' young pass rushers enjoyed a phenomenal night against the 49ers, and Russell was right in the middle of it with three tackles, a tackle for loss, a quarterback hurry and an all-important sack.
"There's a lot of areas to improve in – some highlights, getting better every day. But there's still a long way to go," said Russell of his night's work.
His progress will make a tough decision for the Cowboys' coaches to make. There's no shortage of talented veterans pushing for playing time on the defensive line, and that's before you factor in the likes of Russell, Randy Gregory, Ben Gardner and Davon Coleman.
It makes for a tough decision, especially if Russell is able to maintain that momentum going forward. Whether his reps come at defensive end, defensive tackle or both remains to be seen. Russell said he's confident he can excel at both, though he feels slightly more comfortable outside.
"Defensive end for now, just because it's what I've been playing. It's that muscle memory – everything is a little slower for me out there," he said. "That being said, I've been getting a lot of reps inside. I've been trying to pick that up and progress in that, as well."
Marinelli will be on hand to make sure that he does – and it won't always be negative. In between the shouting, Russell said his coach has found the time to be nice.
"The most positive thing, uh – he told me one day that I'll be great," Russell said. "He said 'You're nowhere near close, but we're going to work with you and you're going to be great.'"