Where There Is Smoke . . .

this is something Parcells did with Tony McGee when he was the linebackers coach in New England (1980). 

So depending on the defensive call, Ellis could be a defensive end or a linebacker, and the offense might not know which until the snap of the ball. The offense wouldn't know if he is dropping into coverage or rushing the quarterback. Blitzing or staying put. 

This is something the Cowboys would like to have done more of last year, but since it was their first year in the 3-4 defense, the coaching staff tried to keep it simple. The Cowboys would either be in a three-man line or four-man line. None of this transition stuff in the huddle. 

That's why you heard so many times Parcells talking about there being so much more he wanted to do with the defense. This is what he meant, but realized when you have so many young guys sprinkled on your defense - three rookies starting in the front seven and two other guys starting fulltime for the first time in the NFL - you had better keep it simple. 

"We were basically just trying to get lined up," Zimmer said. 

So Zimm, what you think, Ellis cool with this? 

"You know Greg," Zimmer said, minimizing any feathers possibly ruffled. "He's just . . . just a good guy. He wants to play. He doesn't want to stand on the sideline, and I don't blame him." 

Parcells said he expects Ellis to play about 50 percent of the snaps, about what he played last year, when as Jones said, he graded out the best defensive lineman on the team. But he said it wouldn't be 70 percent, and certainly not the 90 to 95 percent Ellis had been playing here when the Cowboys were in their 4-3 defense, and Ellis about their only consistent hope at defensive end to produce a sack. 

You can understand where Ellis is coming from then when you've led the team or tied for the lead in sacks the past five years and six of the past seven; when you are in the prime of your career, in your ninth season and haven't quite turned 31 yet. Certainly Ellis, no matter he has four years left on his contract, and none for more than $4.1 million in base, realizes if the Cowboys released him anytime soon, he would enter free agency a part-time player. Not a good marketing tool. 

But Parcells says, "If he goes to a 4-3 team, they all have defensive ends that are kind of like him. I think the best advantage he could make for his career from this point forward is to make him a unique player here." 

Was Ellis buying what you're selling? 

"I don't know about that," Parcells said. "But that's the way it's going to be. I think so. I don't think it was ever told that way. I'm not trying to accommodate him. I told the press he wasn't leaving here. He's not going to leave here. And until we get someone a lot better doing what he can do, then he's going to be an important part of the defense." 

How does that sit with Ellis? 

Well, maybe the towel comes off his head on Sunday. Maybe he will have digested all this and be better emotionally prepared to talk, because you know Greg, he doesn't want to say the wrong thing. He'd rather say nothing, as he did the second half of last season until the final game, than say the wrong thing. 

Or who knows, maybe behind the scenes Ellis is angling for some sort of renegotiation, and might know something more by Sunday. 

Hopefully he does. Hopefully he explains himself. Everyone likes a smoke-free environment.   

   
  Parcells surprised many by having veteran Marcus Coleman working at cornerback during this mini-camp rather than safety, where some have simply assumed he would start alongside Roy Williams. Not so fast. Evidently Parcells sees Coleman in a dual role, safety and cornerback, as he sees Jacques Reeves. Maybe the two will be competing for a spot on the roster. Anyway, since Coleman hasn't played corner since his first two years with Houston (2002-03) - he played safety these past two seasons - he says, "Got to get my feet right. (Playing) safety is easy." 

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