While there were many positive takeaways from Saturday night’s Dallas Cowboys preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens, one glaring gaffe was the fact that cornerback Orlando Scandrick was on the field with the Cowboy’s starting defensive unit… Why?
Almost 12 minutes deep into the first quarter, the Dallas Defense finally took the field for their first snap of the night. After his breakout 2013 performance and an impressive showing at training camp this season, Scandrick had earned his spot in the huddle with the first team defense. However, given the recent four game suspension the NFL has levied on him, the decision to include him in the starting lineup was very questionable. You can argue all you want that a four game penalty for a few sips of a Molly-Infused Mai Tai in Mexico was too harsh. What is not up for debate is the fact that Scandrick will be in street clothes for the first quarter of the Cowboys’ schedule.
So why would Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett honor Scandrick with the starting nod at this year’s first home preseason game? The Dallas defense is still reeling from a historically bad 2013 showing. New defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is doing all he can to right the defensive ship. Part of that process is using every possible preseason snap to help the first team begin to fire on all cylinders. Penciling in a player you know will not be available for the first four games of the season does not seem to be a very Ivy-like decision by a head coach who typically weighs decisions based on their positive impact to the team.
Garrett needed only to look across the AT&T turf during the same game for an example of how to best handle the situation. When the Baltimore Ravens finally ran their first offensive play of the night, it was running back Bernard Pierce lining up behind quarterback Joe Flacco in the Ravens starting backfield and NOT Ravens star running back Ray Rice. Rice has been suspended by the NFL for only the first two Raven’s games (we won’t argue NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s rationale for that wrist slap here), yet their former Super Bowl champion head coach John Harbaugh decided not to honor the troubled running back with a spot in the Ravens starting offensive huddle.
Garrett most likely started Scandrick because he felt that gave the Dallas starting defensive unit, which already is very thin in the secondary, the best shot at walking away from the Raven’s game with a positive taste in their mouths. While that goal may have been achieved, the more important objective of preparing a cohesive defensive unit for the season opener against the 49ers in just three short weeks may have come up short.