When the Dallas Cowboys re-signed Doug Free in the summer of 2011, they believed they had their right tackle position locked up for the foreseeable future. But after a sub-par 2012 season, Free is now likely to become a salary cap causality. This leaves fourth year veteran Jermey Parnell as the most likely candidate to replace him on the right side.
Jermey Parnell is a former power forward from the University of Mississippi’s basketball program. After finishing his junior year at Ole Miss, the 6′-7″, 240 pound Parnell was persuaded by head football coach Houston Nutt to try out for the team. Parnell only played in five games and did not register a sack. However, in 2009 he was signed by the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent with the intent to develop him as an athletic defensive lineman.
Parnell’s great feet and athletic ability for a man of his size eventually convinced the Saints to try him out as an offensive lineman. He was released by the Saints twice and then cut by the Miami Dolphins before finally signing on with the Cowboys in 2010. Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett then converted Parnell into a full time offensive tackle and he played in six games as a backup swing tackle and blocking tight end in short yardage situations.
Jermey Parnell’s first start in the NFL came at left tackle on Thanksgiving Day 2012 against the Washington Redskins (Starter Tyron Smith suffered a high ankle sprain the week before in a game against the Cleveland Browns). Parnell played well, and in turn earned more playing time on the right side after Smith returned from his injury a week later. He split time at right tackle with Doug Free for the rest of the season and his play improved with each game.
The one thing that jumps out at you when watching Jermey Parnell is his athletic ability. His feet are unbelievably quick from side to side and his kick slide in pass protection is very smooth. He can cover a massive amount of ground with each step. Although his footwork is still developing, Parnell has all the natural ability to develop into an elite pass-blocking tackle. He is still growing into his body and because of this he sometimes struggles with power and inside moves. Even when out of position, Parnell’s athletic ability often allows him to regain position and re-anchor. Since he is a young player, (only playing on the offensive line for two seasons) his hand positioning still needs some work along with improving his functional strength.
The following play is from Week 16 against the New Orleans Saints and demonstrates Parnell’s strengths and weaknesses as a young player.
#78 Jermey Parnell (left side of screen) is facing #93 Junior Galette on a third down passing play. Parnell is a natural mover and strives when he is just asked to pass protect. Parnell knows that he will have inside help on this play and this gives Galette only two options as a pass-rusher; bull-rush Parnell and try to walk him back to the QB, or try to speed rush the tackle and beat him around the edge.
Parnell quickly engages his defender, but then he overextends his arms and compromises his balance by bending his waist. Parnell should have been more patient moving his feet into better position instead of reaching. Because of this, he loses leverage on Galette and it causes him to get beat for a moment as he allows his defender to cross his face and lose his balance.
What makes Parnell an interesting player is his ability to quickly recover from his mistakes. Parnell’s athleticism allows him to reset his feet and beat his man to a spot. In this case both players are trying to get to the outside of the pocket. Parnell’s body is squared up to his defender and his stance isn’t too wide. Parnell’s arms are within the framework of his body and this keeps him from overextending his arms.
This time, instead of overextending to engage the defender, he uses his left arm to punch the defender. This lets Parnell direct him to the outside lane and control the angle Galette has to take. The punch and the redirection gives Tony Romo a pocket to step into if needed and a clear throwing lane between Parnell and right guard #73 Mackenzie Bernadeu. Parnell still needs to improve his footwork, as he has a tendency to get his feet too close together and it compromises his balance.
Parnell continues to engage Gallete but more importantly, does not let him get a good angle on the QB. Tony Romo can see that Galette is behind him and this allows Romo to know that the pass rush pressure will not be in his face. He should now be able to step up into the pocket to pass.
Romo releases the ball through the lane that Jermey Parnell has created and completes the pass to Miles Austin for a first down. One thing that is important to coaches and scouts when watching a player is his willingness to finish a play. Parnell overextends again, but still manages to push #93 away from the play and eventually onto the ground, displaying a mean streak that all coaches crave.
Parnell did his job on this play utilizing his athleticism, but if he wants to win the starting right tackle job in 2013, there are still a few things that need to be worked out in order to improve his consistency. If he is willing to work on his footwork and continues to gain strength in the weight room, Jermy Parnell has the potential to become a top offensive tackle in the NFL.