Cowboys Ryan Russell: From Dog House to Big Dog


The Cowboys have been happily surprised by the development of second year defensive end, Ryan Russell, this season.

What a difference a year makes. Ryan Russell, a second year defensive end out of Purdue, joined the Cowboys in 2015 as a fifth round draft pick. At 6’4”, 269 lbs and athleticism to boot, Russell certainly looked the part of an NFL DE.

The only problem was his actual production. Despite being physically gifted with size and athleticism, Russell only accumulated 8.5 sacks in three years of college ball.’s Lance Zierlein had this to say about Ryan Russell before the draft,

"“Evaluators have expressed concern about his competitive toughness. Content to stay blocked and doesn’t fight to improve position.”"

But since you can’t teach size and speed,the Cowboys took a chance. A chance they appeared to regret at this time last season.

Rod Marinelli, known for endearing himself to his players, was more critical of Russell than any other player. He rode him, belittled him, cursed at him, and appeared to even give up on him. A highlight reel could have been made for just for Marinelli-Russell interactions, it was so bad.

It should be no wonder Ryan Russell entered the 2016 with so few expectations. Draft status be damned, if you told me in March that Ryan Russell would even make the team, I’d call you a fool. But alas, it appears the fool is me.

Don’t look now but Ryan Russell has a future on this team. Even more surprising, Rod Marinelli likes him. Even more surprising than that, Ryan Russell seems to genuinely like Rod Marinelli!

More from Dallas Cowboys

"“I love Coach Marinelli, definitely,” Russell said. “He gets the best out of me. He was hard on me last year, but it’s all coming together. This year especially. I feel like a completely different player, so I listen to everything he has to say. Whether he’s yelling at me or he’s just talking to me one-on-one, it’s always valuable information.”"

This not only highlights Marinelli’s ability to read and develop his players , but it speaks to Ryan Russell’s ability to step up in the face of scrutiny and adversity. Kudos all around on this one, folks.

Ryan Russell’s primary issue coming out of college (and last year as a pro) was effort and motivation. This season, things have changed. Ryan Russell is fired up and his play on the practice field has been showing it.

His get off the ball has been particularly impressive. Russell moves at the snap as fast as any player on the roster. On top of that, he’s logging time at the Cowboys’ primary pass-rush position, right defensive end, and appears to have a roster spot locked up for the 2016 season.

With the ability to play either side of the Dallas Cowboys defensive line, Ryan Russell should play an important role in the 2016 rotation. Add in the 4-game suspension to fellow DE, DeMarcus Lawrence, and you have ample opportunity for Ryan Russell to break out early in the season.

The Cowboys look to be desperately thin along the line and Ryan Russell seems to be breaking through at just the right time. He’s taken advantage of the situation and logged important snaps this training camp.

Next: TE Geoff Swaim Ready to Breakout in 2016

There has been far too much bad news about the defensive line rolling around Cowboys Camp these days – it’s time to focus on some good news. Ryan Russell is developing into the player we always hoped he would.