Some final thoughts from my Scout's Notebook as the Cowboys get ready to face the Bengals:
Getting 46 In Uniform
Will be interesting how Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett get to their 46 players for this game against the Bengals. I don't believe we are going to see Jay Ratliff this week so that frees up a spot but where are the other ones going to come from?
This looks like a week that we could see Brady Poppinga in the mix in some packages on the defensive side of the ball and as well on the special teams. Would this mean that Kyle Wilber sits this week after playing some nickel inside linebacker against the Eagles? Anthony Armstrong was inactive last week but in the coaches eye's does he deserve an opportunity?
Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley have been getting plenty of work with the first offense, is this the week that Kevin Ogletree sits because he doesn't give you anything on special teams to maybe give Armstrong that chance? Charlie Peprah, Orlando Scandrick, David Arkin will also sit. You have to assume that Darrion Weems will also be down as well.
Sterling Moore will once again be active because from what I am hearing is that he gives the secondary some flex because he can line up in the nickel and dime packages at both corner and safety. Despite how fans feel about Beasley and Ogletree and who should and should not be active, this will be a tough call for Jones and Garrett.
Bengals Adding Talent
With one of the smallest scouting staffs in the NFL, the Bengals have done a nice job of adding players to their roster. Where they use to miss on high draft picks, they have now done a much better job of finding players throughout the draft.
Guys like A.J. Green are no brainers but guys like Andrew Whitworth, Andy Dalton, Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson were not first round players but guys taken in the second through fourth rounds. When I was in that scouting world, the Bengals really relied on their coaches to handle the majority of their evaluations which at times can be very dangerous.
I experienced that here in Dallas and it has its merits but I have always believed that coaches coach and scout's scout. I would never walk down the hall and tell Mike Zimmer at the time what defense to run on third down. It was my job to find him a player to do that. When coaches are in the scouting mix, they normally just look at the player for what he is on tape, where scouts try and get the whole picture.
The way the Bengals do it, you turn a blind eye away from character of the player. Where the Bengals have hit on players is taking that questionable character guy. For example inside linebacker Vontaze Burfict was a playing that had first round talent out of Arizona State but also had some serious questions about his character. Burfict went undrafted and the Bengals signed him as a free agent where no one would have touched him and now he is a starter, playing well.
To the Bengals he was worth the risk and an example about a coach driven scouting department as opposed to one run by the personnel guys.
Getting Parnell Ready
On Wednesday, I asked Jason Garrett about the possibility of Jeremy Parnell getting more reps this week at offensive tackle in light of what we have seen happening to Doug Free here of late. Where Garrett told us after the Eagles game that he was pleased the way that Free was able to work through his problems and he did not give any thought to replacing Free during the game but it made me wonder if he would in fact have that plan in place if Free were to struggle against the Bengals.
Where Parnell has got his majority of his work has been at left tackle this season but as the swing tackle, he has to be ready to play on either side. I really do believe that Garrett and this offensive staff will have a keen eye on what Free is doing during this game and if they see some problems on the right side, they will be quicker to go with Parnell at that spot. Earlier in the season, Garrett split reps during practice with Mackenzy Bernadeau and Derrick Dockery when Bernadeau was having his strugglies. Bernadeau was able to work things out and Dockery only got the look when Bernadeau had to move to center for Cook.
The move at practice seemed to refocus Bernadeau getting him back on track. Garrett didn't close the door on giving Parnell more of an opportunity at practice which is a smart thing on his part trying to manage his team.
Friday is my favorite day when it comes to opportunities to visit with coaches and players because it is the day we get to talk to Rob Ryan. People might not respect the job Ryan has done but I don't find myself being one of those. I watch his game film after every game and I have never claim to be a defensive coordinator nor do I know X's and O's like he does.
What I do know it has been a struggle for him to come up with a game plan on a weekly basis because of the loss of his players due to injury. I am not making excuses for Ryan and this staff but there is an old saying that he has showed up to a gun fight with a knife. Ryan has tried to hold this together the best he could but when he says for another week he has no Jay Ratliff and his outside linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer have been also battling through injuries to go along with no Sean Lee and Bruce Carter there is little he can do.
It's getting a little difficult to try and get stops when you can't match up well enough to get off the field. Last week Ryan tried Kyle Wilber at inside linebacker on the nickel despite the fact that Wilber had never played a snap at the position.
This week, he will throw Brady Pogginga in the mix along with Sterling Moore in the secondary to try and stop a Bengals offense that has an explosive player in A.J. Green and a running game that has seen some productive snaps with BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Where Ryan has been getting hurt is when teams have gone to three wide packages and run the ball on him which is a strength of this Bengals offense. The trick for Ryan will be to try and get that extra defender down to handle the run.
Look for Ryan to try and take one of his safeties and bring them down to help while matching up on the outside. It will be difficult but as Ryan has told us before, no one is feeling sorry for him.