Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
With the regression of Doug Free, the right tackle position has turned into a problem. Do the Cowboys have their answer in Jeremy Parnell or is he just a backup?
"What is Jeremy Parnell? Starter? Or is he just a backup at best? -Tommyt2"
Jeremy Parnell showed some promise when Tyron Smith went down with a high ankle sprain and entered the game against the Cleveland Browns. Even though Parnell was flagged twice and allowed a sack, he did a fairly good job as the game wore on for a guy being thrown into the game.
The very next week against the Washington Redskins, Parnell made his first career NFL start. Keep in mind Parnell didn't play right tackle in those games, he played left tackle. Once Smith returned, Parnell was put into a rotation at right tackle with the struggling Doug Free. If the Dallas Cowboys wanted to get a good feel for what they had in Parnell, then it probably would have been best to start him and let him play all of the snaps.
It's extremely hard for any player to get into a groove when they split snaps, especially on the offensive line where familiarity and chemistry go a long way. In all of my years of watching football, I can't remember seeing a starting offensive lineman split almost half of his snaps with a backup lineman. The Cowboys were intrigued enough by Parnell's potential that they took a chance and used that unorthodox method during the end of the season when the playoffs were on the line.
After going back and evaluating Parnell's tape from the end of 2012, it's clear that he has immense physical ability and size. He's 6-6, 311 pounds and possesses quick feet for a player who is still going through his developmental stage. With more time, he should become more coordinated and shuffle his feet even better.
Where Parnell really impresses is when he makes mistakes, and he makes plenty of them because he is so raw. When he makes a mistake, Parnell quickly recognizes what he did wrong and makes up for it physically. He's so quick that he can shuffle and reset his feet to get into better position.
If he ever learns how to use his massive wingspan he is going to become a great pass blocker. Parnell also has a mean streak that you want to see in offensive lineman. While he isn't the most physical blocker, he keeps playing through the whistle and finishes the play out with authority.
Parnell's biggest shortcomings as a starting offensive tackle is a lack of power, overextending and becoming unbalanced. In order to gain the strength and power, Parnell must get into the weight room. As for overextending, that's a technique issue that should be corrected by coaching.
Right now, the Cowboys are discussing what they should do with Doug Free. If they decided to release Free, then that would give Parnell the keys at right tackle, but they could also draft a offensive tackle with a high draft pick this April. There could be a great opportunity to land a tackle like Oklahoma's Lane Johnson and solidify the tackle position for a very long time.
From a talent perspective, Parnell has all the tools to become a very good starting offensive tackle. Whether the Cowboys are willing to go into the 2013 season with Parnell as the starting right tackle, go with Doug Free for one more season or draft a right tackle high in the draft remains to be seen.