Ready For 'The Freak' Show?

Rookie right tackle Rob Petitti awaits dangerous Philly defensive end Jevon Kearse.

Nothing like a challenge, huh?

Against San Diego, rookie right tackle Rob Petitti had to deal with the nerves and excitement of playing in his first NFL game. A week later, he had to deal with the Washington Redskins' powerful defense. Now, with exactly four games under his belt, Petitti faces the most dangerous one-on-one matchup in his young career when the Philadelphia Eagles and defensive end Jevon Kearse come calling Sunday at Texas Stadium. Kearse is known as "The Freak" because of his physical attributes and absurd athleticism, and has the skill, experience and quickness to make it a long day for any offensive tackle, much less a rookie. But Petitti sure doesn't sound like an awe-struck youngster getting ready to take on one of the most feared pass rushers in the league.

"Every week is the same for me -- I've got to improve," Petitti said. "He's a good player, but I've got to get better. I've got to trust my technique. I've got to rely on my technique, because he's a guy who plays with a high motor."

That's it? "He's a good player?"

To be fair, a quick glance at Kearse's statistics (six tackles, one sack through the Eagles' first four games) won't make anyone think he's a player who offensive coordinators lose sleep about when piecing together their gameplans to face the Eagles. But he is.

Petitti is not the quickest tackle in the NFL. For a 6-foot-6, 320-pound man, he moves very well, but he's not in the same stratosphere, in terms of quickness, as Kearse (who, before growing into his frame, was recruited to the University of Florida as a safety). But that doesn't mean Petitti can't handle quick pass rushers -- in his redshirt freshman year at the University of Pittsburgh, he turned in a permanent résumé highlight when he held then-Syracuse (and current Indianapolis Colts) defensive end Dwight Freeney without a sack.

"I've seen Jevon play -- we all know he's good," Petitti said. "Every guy who's starting for the first time in the NFL, you can't go into a game thinking you have to be perfect. You can only do what you can do."

The Cowboys will take measures to help Petitti.

"I've got a rookie right tackle," head coach Bill Parcells said. "You think I want to keep him out there on Kearse all day?"

To that end, tight ends Dan Campbell and Jason Witten likely will spend more time staying in to block than they would against many offenses.

"They'll help me out, but they're not going to leave the tight end in on every play," Petitti said. "It's really just going to depend on making sure we're in the right formation."

Petitti said there is no one player on the Dallas scout team who is spending the week trying to simulate Kearse.

"Greg Ellis and Kenyon Coleman -- they're basically who I go up against every day," Petitti said. "I don't really know how fast (Kearse) is. I've seen him on TV, and I've seen him on film, but I don't think I'll really appreciate it until I go against him. The (Ellis and Coleman) sure don't take it easy on me, that's for sure, and that's good for me.

"I have a great deal of respect for (Kearse), because he's a great player, but I don't go into a game feeling any intimidation. I played last week against Warren Sapp -- that's a guy you grow up watching. I know (Kearse) is a great player, and I know I'm a rookie, but that's no reason I should get beat."


CowboysHQ Top Stories