that to Ellis, he says, yeah, but Cleveland tried to do the same thing with Kenard Lang two years ago when moving to a 3-4 defense, and when it didn't work out so swell, well he was released. Ellis was thinking, that could be me.
So that's why I asked Parcells if learning to drop into coverage was a difficult transition for the McGinests and McGees of the world. Here is how he responded, and probably shed some clearer light on this situation:
"I don't know what we're doing here with Ellis. I think you guys are way, way ahead of (us). We're just trying to give him some things that will increase the versatility of our defense, to not only include the versatility of Greg Ellis, but to also include DeMarcus Ware.
"Our ability to appear in one kind of front and make them identify somebody and do something else with the same people on the field increases our versatility, and that's a little of what we're really trying to do."
If you are following along at home, and this is basically how defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer explained this all to me, if you have a legitimate pass-rush threat on the opposite side from Ware when you are in your base defense, then teams can't make too many concessions to blocking Ware, who by the way has just about been, as they say in the business, "unblockable" here in camp.
"He's ready to rock," was what Parcells said of his second-year linebacker's camp so far.
Also, if you have five big guys on the line of scrimmage, which is the look the Cowboys give when Ellis is at outside linebacker, then you have spread out the responsibilities of the offensive linemen into one-on-one assignments, with few double teams and no one available to pick off the two inside linebackers unless you want to try to block those glorified defensive ends playing linebacker with a tight end and/or running back.
Like instead of the center and guard doubling your nose, or one guard picking off a linebacker, you're making them account for your five-man front. But again, to make this all work, Ellis must drop into coverage every once in a while, otherwise teams will simply know that when he's in the game he's coming after the quarterback and can game-plan that.
"If we can just find out what he can do and what he can't do, and see how we can fit him in," says Zimmer of the approach the Cowboys are taking with Ellis this camp. "He's smart. Was a basketball player. He doesn't understand all the concepts of coverage - yet - but was just the second day."
Ellis laughs, pointing out they are talking about watching this route or that route, and he says, "I'm just finding out what a hook and curl is."
Now this whole experiment makes a whole lot of sense to me, and probably makes sense to Ellis. It's just that Greg is a known worry-wart. He's a perfectionist, and is worried about change so late in his career. He's also worried about his security, i.e. money. Can't really blame him for that.
But just seems to me Ellis has been too valuable - and is too valuable - for the Cowboys to do something that would waste his talent. After all, the question you must ask yourself, especially those espousing the theory of trading Ellis: Besides Ware, where else are you going to get eight sacks if Ellis isn't here? Come on, who? And, got you any pass-rushing nickel ends for the side opposite Ware?
Because if you don't, Ware will be neutralized.
Now when Ellis finally spoke with the media after Tuesday's practice he mellowed his stance considerably, from "not wanting to be here" to "how I am as a person, and I will fulfill my obligations. I'm a football player.
"I'm a little more optimistic now because I see (Parcells) wants me to be part of it. He's done an ultra sell job."
So when our walk ended, and Greg went on and on, it's apparent he's uncomfortable with the situation, but he's such a nice guy, his anger probably doesn't translate the way, say T.O.'s did last year in Philadelphia. In fact, it doesn't even seem to translate on the field.
Zimmer said he asked his coaches if they have seen any change in Ellis, either in the meeting room or on the field, wanting to know if his veteran leader is half-assing it out there because he "doesn't want to be here," as