Parcells still searching for kick returner
05:08 PM CDT on Wednesday, August 25, 2004
By MATT MOSLEY / DallasNews.com
IRVING – Cowboys coach Bill Parcells may have found a punt return man in rookie Patrick Crayton. But with two pre-season games to go, he hasn’t found any takers on kick returns.
“You can put that in the things that I'm worried about,” Parcells said Wednesday.
The Cowboys averaged 29.6 yards on five kickoff returns against the Raiders, 8.1 yards better than their average last season.
Zuriel Smith’s 55-yard return was encouraging, but Parcells said he would also have to earn a role in the passing game.With at least six players ranked ahead of him at receiver, that’s not likely to happen.
The remaining contestants are Crayton, running back Julius Jones, cornerback Nate Jones, cornerback Jacques Reeves and running back ReShard Lee.
Crayton’s quickness and ability to make players miss is better suited for returning punts. He’s doesn’t have the pure speed players need on kick returns.
Parcells probably wouldn’t want to lean on Julius Jones too much since he’s going to see a lot of plays at running back. And Nate Jones didn’t do anything to distinguish himself against the Texans (two returns, 24 yards).
Reeves and Lee have limited experience, but Lee averaged 24 yards on two returns against the Raiders.
“Quite frankly, ReShard Lee has done a pretty decent job doing that,” Parcells said. “So he's kind of headed in the right direction there.''
Last season, the Cowboys had nine players return at least one kick. Smith led the team by averaging 21.5 on 23 returns.
Gurode continues to impress: Parcells can’t stop talking about the progress right guard Andre Gurode made during training camp. He said Gurode had another solid game against the Raiders.
“He’s much more aggressive,” Parcells said. “He’s playing with a lot more confidence. That’s the biggest difference right there. If he gets one more thing down, I think he’ll be a really good guard.”
Parcells said Gurode is trying to learn a new technique, although he refused to identify it.
Last year, Gurode earned a spot in Parcells’ “hotel” because of his constant mental errors. He finished the season with nine penalties.
Shanle trying not to get comfortable: Former Nebraska linebacker Scott Shanle was one of the biggest surprises of training camp, but that doesn’t mean he has job security. Shanle, who joined the Cowboys after being released by the Rams in December, caught Parcells’ attention early in camp.
Playing behind Al Singleton, Shanle looked strong against the run. He said his biggest concern is learning the Cowboys’ zone pass coverage.
At Nebraska, Shanle said he lined up 80 percent of the time opposite of the tight end.
“I was always in one-on-one coverage,” Shanle said. “So it was pretty easy. Now, I’ve got a lot more to think about.”
Parcells will have some tough decisions to make at linebacker. Bradie James is a lock behind Dexter Coakley.
Special teams standout Keith O’Neil has looked solid behind Dat Nguyen, and rookies Kalen Thornton and Ryan Fowler are also pushing for roster spots.
Wednesday's coaching shorts: Parcells said center Gennaro DiNapoli (stress fracture) wouldn’t play against the Titans on Monday…Parcells said the best cornerback he’s ever coached was Mike Haynes…Parcells responded Wednesday to constant references to Vinny Testaverde’s advanced age. “Everybody is ready to put him in the cemetery,” Parcells said. “I'm trying to dig him up.”