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News: Center Rotation Excludes Lehr - DC.com

Discussion in 'News Zone' started by Lord Sun, Jun 5, 2004.

  1. Lord Sun

    Lord Sun New Member

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    [IMG] Center Rotation Excludes Returning Starter

    Chad Peters, DallasCowboys.com

    IRVING, Texas -- After starting 16 games at center last year for the Cowboys, fourth-year veteran Matt Lehr suddenly finds himself at a new position.

    "We're going to move Matt Lehr out of that position to guard, at least temporarily," head coach Bill Parcells said. "I know that Lehr is there, and I can always put him back (at center), but I'm going to play Lehr at guard this year."

    Lehr has played guard previously for the Cowboys, moving back and forth between guard and center during his brief professional career.

    Parcells knows what he has in Lehr at center, but is looking for improved play at the position this season.

    With Lehr back at guard, the Cowboys will instead go with a three-man rotation throughout the mini-camps and training camp at center, using Gennaro DiNapoli, Al Johnson and Tyson Walter until one of the players entrenches themselves in the starting role.

    Johnson, who suffered a season-ending knee injury during training camp last year, just days after being moved into the starting lineup, is healthy again and able to fully participate in all the drills.

    "I've been able to run on it and do everything I need to," Johnson said of his knee, which required unique microfracture surgery in August. "The only thing I can do now is practice and see how it feels. But I'm confident that I can come back (to full strength)."

    The injury has left Johnson's mind on more than just football.

    "I'm really not even worried about the playing time, or starting, or anything like that," Johnson said. "Right now, I'm just thinking about my knee and trying to get it back to 100 percent. It feels good right now, but you never know until you get out there and play on it for a while."

    DiNapoli, a seven-year veteran who signed with the Cowboys during training camp last summer after being released by the Tennessee Titans, had a chance to start a year ago but found the transition to his new team difficult to handle. While he never started, he did rotate the first seven games with Lehr, before his injury.

    "Last year was a difficult year, and then I got hurt," said DiNapoli, who was placed on injured reserve with a high ankle sprain on Oct. 29."It was probably the worst year I've had playing. This year I'm going to go into it full-steam ahead."

    DiNapoli is in better shape than he was a year ago after participating in the off-season conditioning program with the Cowboys this spring. He also said he has a much greater grasp of the offensive system now that he has a year of experience under this coaching staff.

    "It's leaps and bounds," DiNapoli said in reference to the difference between this year and last. "I don't think I came into camp in good shape last year and that always hurts. Things didn't work out with my former team and I was kind of depressed at the time. I have a whole new outlook now and am just really focused."

    Walter started eight games at center during his rookie season in 2002, but was moved to tackle and guard last year, where he received little playing time.

    "It's a new year and (Parcells) said at the end of last season after the playoff game that nothing stays the same," Walter said about his move back to center. "It's always nice to have an opportunity to get in there and show what you can do."

    An opportunity that Lehr, the returning starter at center, will likely not receive at the position.
  2. junk

    junk I've got moxie

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    I just can't see Tyson Walter making the team this year.
  3. Hollywood Henderson

    Hollywood Henderson Benched

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    I don't see Lehr making it, Tyson can play every position, so thats always valuable, but we do have better depth this year at all spots, so let the cream rise...
  4. lwehlers

    lwehlers Well-Known Member

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    i also think this speaks volume on what parcells think of lehr. he is not a center. we had no choice but to put lehr at center last year. lehr was not bad at pass blocking but he could not move people off the ball for a power running game. i also think lehr and tyson walter will have a hard time making this team this year unless we have some injuries.
  5. chicago JK

    chicago JK Well-Known Member

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    I think this is a good opportunity for Lehr. If healthy, Al Johnson is the starter at center and with this move it seems like Parcells thinks Dinapolli is the back up at the center spot. That leaves Lehr as the third center and probably out of a spot. Parcells is looking for depth so he is trying Lehr our at guard. If he can produce at Guard then he is more valuable due to his ability to play several positions on the line. He will be fighting for one of those last line spots. I think Walter is gone, probably Graham too. It will be interesting to see if Javier Collins sticks around. If Lehr was stuck just as the third center then he would be gone. Now he gets his chance to make an impression with Bill at Guard. Might help come cut day.
  6. MichaelWinicki

    MichaelWinicki "You want some?" Staff Member

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    I think it could also speak volumes of the overall improvment of talent along the offensive line.
  7. AdamJT13

    AdamJT13 Salary Cap Analyst

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    Lehr clearly outplayed DiNapoli at center last season. If Parcells thinks Johnson will win the job at center, perhaps the reason Lehr will be playing guard is because Parcells thinks he can battle for a starting spot at guard -- moreso than either DiNapoli or Walter. It's not like our two incumbents at guard are coming off great seasons, so we need competition for those spots. And Lehr might be better competition at guard than DiNapoli would be. And if Lehr doesn't beat out Allen or Gurode/Peterman, he can always be a backup at both guard and center.
  8. jobberone

    jobberone Genetically engineered moderating Orangutan Staff Member

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    Obviously he thinks he's more valuable at guard than center which says a lot for Johnson. More than I thought. What it says about Lehr I don't know. His he just backup material or is he being groomed for a starting nod at some point?
  9. EGG

    EGG Well-Known Member

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    Agreed,,, there's a lot to be said for versatility and Walter has had a strange NFL experience so far. It's tough enough for a late round rookie tackle being forced into the starting lineup,,, but to be forced in AT CENTER, a position he hadn't played since mid-school? C'mon! Since then he's played for several new coaches at several different positions and I wouldn't be surprised to see him become at least a quality backup once the dust settles.
  10. big dog cowboy

    big dog cowboy THE BIG DOG Staff Member

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    I don't get it. Lehr was practically playing out of position and only got to play the position due to injury. Didn't we specifically draft Al Johnson to play center? So that he is now healthy shouldn't that be his position? He was anointed the started before he got hurt last year. :confused:
  11. Smith22

    Smith22 Well-Known Member

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    From what I recall, they rotated back and forth because neither could really stand out over the other.

    I know LA and Gurode have their problems, but I seriously doubt Lehr beats out either one of them.
  12. MikeD17

    MikeD17 Benched

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    I think lehr will be starting over gurode this season
  13. AdamJT13

    AdamJT13 Salary Cap Analyst

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    Lehr started and played the majority of each game. DiNapoli played a few possessions each game before he got hurt. And if you watch the tapes, Lehr played much better than DiNapoli.
  14. LaTunaNostra

    LaTunaNostra He Made the Difference

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    Matt's best chance of cementing his job seems to be a swing center/guard. Cementing, because I don't think he's fighting desperaely to hang onto a roster spot, by any means.

    He PROVED last season he can hold the fort, god bless him, sandwiched between a penalty machine who was pulled for a virtual cripple rt, and an LA the epitome of inconsistency.

    Matt played mature penalty free ball last year, and improved week by week in the middle. No, at that size he's not going to any Pro Bowls, but with that work ethic, fast learning curve, and what he showed on the field last season I find it hard to believe this new (and still very early) center rotation has anything to do at ALL with Bill being dissatisfied with Lehr. It could even signify Bill has FOUND his back up center, and now wants to see if he can make himself even more valuable via versatility.

    In fact, not only is it a chance to see if Matt can improve his run blocking enough to get a "swing" designation, I think it's DiNapoli who is being the most challenged and going to be odd man out if it comes down to it.
  15. big dog cowboy

    big dog cowboy THE BIG DOG Staff Member

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    Now that makes a lot more sense to me. :D

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