Cowboys second-year defensive end Ryan Russell is currently enjoying that massive jump in comfortability players experience from their rookie year to their sophomore season, and it’s showing up in his performance in OTAs at Valley Ranch.
Which is good, considering Russell appeared in just one game as a rookie, and recorded no tackles.
"I know he didn’t really play a lot last year, but you see a lot of potential with him," veteran defensive tackle Cedric Thornton told the team’s official website. "He is kind of like me in that he’s out to prove himself."
This offseason, Russell has had the chance to work at a defined position (left defensive end), while DeMarcus Lawrence recovers from back surgery, a luxury he didn’t enjoy as a rookie.
“Last year I played a lot of both sides,” Russell said. “This year I’m working mostly on left end and just trying to get in those reps with those guys—going against a lot of starters and going out there with the ones.”
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli isn’t ready to declare that Russell has turned a corner this early, but he does acknowledge the Purdue product is working in the right direction.
“I love Coach Marinelli, definitely. He gets the best out of me. He was hard on me last year, but it’s all coming together—this year, especially,” Russell said. “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.”