Wade Phillips is allergic to rookie and young players. At least he had been on his prior stops on the coaching circuit. In 2007 he played a pat hand, playing the team Bill Parcells handed to him, with one exception, where Wade got older -- swapping out ILB Akin Ayodele for Zach Thomas.
The old dog has learned to love young puppies since that veteran squad let him down in '07 and again in '08. He's been far more willing to act like Jimmy Johnson and give kids vital roles in his game plans. The anticipated trade of Bobby Carpenter says that Wade is again willing to trust rookies has he did in '08 and especially in '09. If the newbies produce in the same way those two crops played, Dallas should see more improvement.
In '08 Orlando Scandrick became the team's nickel back as a rookie. Felix Jones and Tashard Choice got significant playing time and made important contributions. Martellus Bennett picked his spots, but he also sprinkled big plays into the offense's batter.
Last year, Wade went young in a big way. Second-year corner Mike Jenkins, whose most memorable rookie play saw him ole-ing a Giants runner into the end zone, was nontheless handed the right corner spot over Anthony Henry and by season's end, Jenkins was playing at a Pro Bowl level.
Third-year man Anthony Spencer was promoted to starting left outside linebacker after Greg Ellis was released. This caused some concern among the fans, because Ellis had bagged eight quarterbacks in 2008 while Spencer had just 1.5 sacks. Spencer's early struggles in the rush department caused more teeth gnashing, but his powerful stretch run -- six sacks in Dallas' last six games, validated Phillips gamble.
On offense, 6th-rounder John Phillips earned heavy reps as the team's F-back after Deon Anderson was injured and he remained in the lineup after Anderson returned. The rookie was an effective lead blocker and showed some receiving skill. Phillips fellow UVAer Kevin Ogletree also earned more playing time as the season progressed and produced when his number was called.
Carpenter's trade leaves the Cowboys without a nickel linebacker. His departure means the team is either ready to insert 2nd-year man Jason Williams, or given heavy duty to rookie 2nd rounder Sean Lee -- or both.
Dallas has done nothing with unsettled nickel receiver Patrick Crayton, but the team's giddiness over top pick Dez Bryant hints that he'll see heavy duty as well. Be open to a late or UFA surprise, who gets on the field early. One always does.
Trusting kids was vital to Jimmy Johnson's quick overhaul in the '90s. His Cowboys were the youngest team in the league when they won their first title in January '93. Phillips is learning the benefits of a few good young men. As his youth allergy wears off, his team's health continues to improve.