Dallas Cowboys vs. St. Louis Rams Preview: Defense

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Will Sean Lissemore continue to excel in limited playing time?

One of our readers emailed me this week and pointed out that I have written about every defensive starter and nearly every back-up role player, but I have neglected to even mention Lissemore. I apologize for the oversight. The truth is, Lissemore is quietly becoming an excellent back-up. He has played more in recent weeks due to the injury to Jason Hatcher. In just 18 snaps against the Patriots, he recorded a QB knock-down. He has played about 70 snaps so far this season, but he should get more chances if he continues to play at a high level. It looks to me like Ryan is using him primarily in passing situations, but I do recall him making a tackle near the line of scrimmage or in the backfield 2 or 3 times already this year.

Will he continue to get better and better?

According to the statistics generated by the mathematicians at Pro Football Focus( I have to admit that I do not understand the metrics they use to calculate their grades), Lissemore grades out higher than either of the two starters: Marcus Spears and Kenyon Coleman. That may not surprise you, but this certainly will: they claim that Lissemore has a higher grade than even Jay Ratliff (admittedly he has a much smaller body of work: Lissemore has played about 70 snaps while Ratliff has played over 250).

I will be paying special attention to Lissemore this week. I will be watching to see how Ryan uses him, and to see if I can come to a conclusion about the accuracy of the aforementioned grades from Pro Football Focus.

Will Marcus Spears continue to lead the pre-game pep talk?

I was absolutely gobsmacked by how many people wanted to run Spears out of town this off-season. I was never convinced that Stephen Bowen was a better all-around DE than Spears. I am completely convinced that Spears is the most underrated and unappreciated player wearing a star on his helmet.

It doesn’t matter to me whether or not Spears continues to do the pre-game speech; I will be happy if it is anyone other than Keith Brooking. I was astonished and horrified last season when Brooking started doing the pep talk. I will never understand how a player can be in his first year on a team, and yet be permitted to give the pre-game speech. I think it was this fact alone, more than their poor play, that started all the comments in the media that the Cowboys defense lacked leadership.

The Cowboys are lucky to have been able to keep him.

Either way, I am relieved that it is a career Cowboy who is giving the speeches this season, so I will be watching to see if that continues.

 Will Brooking continue to play more snaps than Bradie James?

Prior to the Pats game, I was pretty sure that James was playing a lot more snaps than Brooking. I have not had time to go back and verify that belief. I was able to find the numbers for the Patriots game: Brooking played 36 snaps and James played only 13. I have to believe that this will not continue. I am guessing that Brooking played more against the Pats for a specific reason, perhaps it is the Pats proclivity for playing with two TE’s.

I will be watching to see how often Brooking and James are played, and whether they appear to have different roles.

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Tags: Abe Elam Bradie James Cowboys Dallas Cowboys Dallas Defense DeMarcus Ware Gerald Sensabaugh Jason Garrett Keith Brooking Marcus Spears Mike Jenkins Rob Ryan Sean Lissemore Terence Newman

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