With right tackle Doug Free out three to four weeks with a fractured foot, the little-used Jermey Parnell will step into the starting lineup.
The Dallas Cowboys always looked at Parnell, a former college basketball player at Mississippi, as a developmental prospect who could possible replace Free in the future.
The future is now for Parnell, who is in his fifth year with the Cowboys and has only two career starts.
Parnell started at left tackle for Tyron Smith in 2012 and as a sixth linemen against New Orleans in 2013.
“Yes, I’m looking forward to the opportunity,” Parnell said. “It’s been a long time coming. I’m going to continue to work hard and see how it goes.”
Parnell, who saw his most extensive playing time in 2012 when he split time with an under-performing Free through the second half of the season, has no intention of letting down his teammates.
The Cowboys’ offensive line has been a strength of the team, and Parnell plans to do his part to keep it that way.
“I’m going to try to keep it simple,” Parnell said. “I’m going to trust the coaches and work hard and see how it goes. I’m prepared.”
Parnell is in the final year of his contract, making a base salary of $1.5 million.
DeMarcus Lawrence can’t wait for Wednesday’s practice. It will be his first since July 29 when he fractured the fifth metatarsal his right foot during a pass-rushing drill.
The rookie defensive end has spent the past 77 days rehabbing.
“I’m beyond excited, actually,” Lawrence said Tuesday. “I’m going to have a lot to work on, getting back out there. Fresh legs. I feel like it’s been a long time coming. So just get back out there, work on my fundamentals and my technique and hopefully get back to normal real soon.”
The Cowboys placed Lawrence on injured reserve/designated to return, and he now gets two weeks to practice before being eligible to make his NFL debut Nov. 2 against the Cardinals.
“It got hard at times,” Lawrence said. “I just had to come to the realization that I was going to be back real soon. So just sit back and just count down the days and the weeks. Now, it’s almost here again.”
The Cowboys drafted Lawrence in the second round to help their pass rush. They have only 5 1/2 sacks, including one on a fake punt, with their defensive linemen contributing only 3 1/2. Defensive tackle Henry Melton leads the team with 1 1/2.
If there is a secret to DeMarco Murray’s success, beyond the improved play of the offensive line, it might be his understanding of the team’s zone-blocking scheme.
Offensive line coach Bill Callahan, the play-caller last season, said last week that Murray needed time to figure it out. And Murray has mastered it.
“It’s a function of him understanding the scheme now going into the third year and really understanding the line’s timing,” Callahan said. “His timing’s gotten better.”
Murray continually credits his offensive line.
“I think every year I’ve been here has been a learning experience for me and for them,” Murray said. “I’m still learning to this day, but I think they’re doing a great job blocking, and I’m doing a good job at reading things and making a few guys miss. I think we’re all on the same page.”