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.

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.

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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