Here are some thoughts after watching the film of Thursday's Silver & Blue Debut practice at Cowboys Stadium.
Logjam at WR RemainsWith Miles Austin and Dez Bryant being down, it has given some guys like Kevin Ogletree, Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley and Andre Holmes plenty of opportunities to show the front office and coaches what they can do when given the chance. I understand how important it is for Tony Romo to get work with Austin and Bryant, but I don't see it as a negative at all for him to get plenty of time with Ogletree, Harris, Beasley and Holmes, too.
In the offseason, the questions were not about Austin and Bryant, but who would play behind those two starters. All those receivers I mentioned have a great shot at sticking on the 53-man roster, but now the biggest question is where does Danny Coale fit in this mix? I have always believed that a position will take care of itself if you allowed all the players to practice and play in the games. But in this case, Coale didn't get that opportunity. There is no question that Coale is behind when it comes to the reps that he has been getting in practice and in the games as well.
I will say this about Coale, since he has returned to the field, you notice his ability to catch the ball. Like all rookie receivers, though, he is going to have to fight hard to get the routes down. It's not a lack of smarts, but more of a lack of experience. I see receivers coach Jimmy Robinson working hard with him every day to make up as much ground as possible.
Backup Tackle ReturnsI noticed that offensive tackle Jermey Parnell was back on the practice field and moving around well. Last week Parnell missed the San Diego game with a stinger in his neck after playing well against the Raiders. This is really a tough break for him to miss any games because this preseason is his season.
Let's be real honest here, unless something happens to Tyron Smith, Parnell is not going to see the field other than maybe field goal protection. He needs to play in these games because he will not get any other work. It's as simple as that.
In training camp, it's not always about the starters but who the backups are, too. Parnell needs to play every snap he can get in practice and the games for his development. I'm not saying this like Parnell is in danger of losing a roster spot. I am just offering a view that he needs to fight through the issues and get these next two preseason games under his belt to give this front office the best possible evaluation.
Assessing Rookie SafetyAnother player on this roster that is in a similar situation as Coale's is safety Matt Johnson. In his first year as a member of the Cowboys, Johnson's initial venture in the NFL has been less than perfect. It seems that he has had one setback after another, but now he is getting the opportunity to show the coaches what he can do.
It's clear that Barry Church will be the starter opposite Gerald Sensabaugh and Danny McCray will factor into the mix in some certain subpackages. Where Johnson has to find his niche is on special teams and work to try and take McCray's job in the sub.
When I studied Johnson in college, where he was really good was his ability to cut it loose when he played. Johnson was always around the ball in the piles. The last thing he needs to do is play tight and nervous. There were some reps in San Diego during the practices where I felt like he was a little cautious, but now that he's going to get some live action where he is going to have to make tackles, I feel that this is a good thing. The more opportunities that Johnson gets, the better chance he has to help this defense sooner than later.
More is Less?This past offseason I made a big deal that I thought that defensive end Sean Lissemore would make a push for the starting job on the right side. As the camp and preseason games have come and gone, it appears that Lissemore will once again play the role of back-up end and nose tackle along with nickel defensive tackle.
Lissemore just didn't make the push that I thought he was going to make from the offseason. I still think he will play a key role in what this Cowboys' front seven will be able to do, but I am disappointed that he will not be doing it in a starting role. Things began out badly for him in the Oakland game, where I thought he played way too high with his pad level. When Lissemore is at his best is when he is square to the line and working up the field. There were too many times where I observed him getting turned and stuck on the blocks.
The Chargers game was better and in the practices with San Diego there was improvement as well, but I just expected so much more, that he would have taken that job and run with it. But, that was not the case.
There is no doubt that Lissemore will once again be fine in his role off the bench, playing quality snaps like he did in 2011, which is not a bad situation. I just felt like there was a real possibility there for that jump to the next level, but it looks like it's Jason Hatcher's job for now.