Ever since Jay Ratliff has been a part of this team I have been a big fan of his. The guy is the epitome of getting overlooked in the draft process. Ratliff was graded as a 5th-6th round pick coming out of Auburn in 2005. The Cowboys eventually took this guy in the 7th round, 7th round people. I wanted to take some time out of the 2011 NFL Draft material and take a look back at one of my favorite Dallas Cowboys of all time. Jay Ratliff is what every young defensive lineman coming to this team should want to emulate and be like.
The tale of the tape
Pick 224 7th round 2005 NFL Draft
29 years old
40 yard dash: 4.85 225 lb reps: 26 Vertical: 33 1/2 inches Broad Jump: 9'9" Short Shuttle: 4.23 3 Cone Drill: 7.35
Career Stats: Tackles: 119 Sacks: 25 Pro Bowls: 3 All Pro: 2009
Leftovers: The Beast that was left over
I do want to point out that Ratliff will turn 30 years old this August 29th. Ratliff has given us quality seasons in his six year tenure as a Cowboy. I pray and I seriously mean this, I pray Ratliff isn't beginning to wear down. Vastly undersized as a 3-4 nose tackle, Ratliff gets beat up every play. He takes on double teams constantly and had no help from his defensive ends and inside linebackers this past season. I pray Ratliff has Pro Bowls left in him because we need this beast on our defense. I think Jay Ratliff is the one player on this team that gets overlooked too often, starting when he was drafted. This is a chip Jay carries on his shoulder and possibly uses for motivation.
So I guess we can give the great Bill Parcells credit for discovering and drafting Jay Ratliff 224th overall in the 7th round of the 2005 NFL Draft. I wont even go over all the defensive lineman that were taken over Ratliff, because it's a joke and a waste of our time. All you need to know is Ratliff was billed as leftovers and up for grabs. I think its funny but Ratliff was actually recruited to Auburn as a tight end and later converted to defensive line. Can you imagine this guy as a tight end? Wow. Ratliff moved from defensive end to defensive tackle his senior year, go figure right because everyone wants him to move over to defensive end now.
Ratliff was a guy that I remembered watching early on his career and thinking to myself that we might have something here. Ratliff did receive more playing time in nickel packages under Parcells but it took a injury to nose tackle Jason Ferguson in early 2007 to take over the starting job. Now I am not a big Wade Phillips fan, but I do give him moderate credit for this. Parcells started Ferguson and used Ratliff as his backup. Its not like Parcells didn't use Ratliff, but I think Wade figured out how to use him in 2007 when Wade brought over his style of the 3-4 defense. Ratliff was dynamite as a nose tackle, not defensive end. It went against the grain to use a smaller and quicker nose tackle but Ratliff has amazing talent for this position. I don't know how many "rush" nose tackles I have ever seen in my life, Ratliff may be the only one.
Ratliff is a special and rare breed. Beasts like this are not typically 3-4 nose tackles. I think the NFL was more familiar with the larger space eater type nose tackles like Vincent Wilfork and Casey Hampton. It wouldn't shock me to see Wade go with a smaller and quicker nose tackle in Houston. I think quietly Jay Ratliff changed the game of football. He is a prime example of what you can do at the nose tackle position if your strong, powerful and quick. Ratliff has a mean streak to his game and I love it. He wants to be violent and hit you as hard as he can. If I could nitpick DeMarcus Ware for ONE thing it would be just that, he isn't violent enough. That just isn't his game though. Ratliff on the other hand is in the forefront of the battle in the trenches. The old cliché "the battle is won in the trenches" may be blown out of proportion but great teams win up front on both sides of the football. When you have a guy like Ratliff on your defensive line and Ware as a pass rusher on the edge, you have two great foundations to your 3-4 defense.
Ratliff took off after the 2007 season and was rewarded with a contract extension that keeps him here through the 2012 season. Ratliff will be 32 years old by then and hopefully have some Pro Bowl years left in him. I think Ratliff is grossly underpaid especially considering the contracts Marion Barber and Terence Newman received and neither were All Pro like Ratliff in 2009. We should be thankful that we are getting Ratliff at a premium discount compared to the other big time defensive tackles in the NFL. I always thought Ratliff was better than Albert Haynesworth and look at the contract he received from Dan Snyder in Washington. This is another reason why I love Ratliff so much. He isn't poor but he is underpaid, but the man never complains about it. He comes to work and leaves everything he has out there on the field. Hopefully Ratliff will still be in top shape in another year and we can reward him with a well deserved pay day.
This brings me to my most worrisome analysis of Jay Ratliff, the possible breakdown. Because Jay is so undersized he takes a physical beating every game at nose tackle. His play was obviously down from the level we are accustomed to and I really hope that it was just a down year. He had basically no help from his defensive ends and that is a major factor as well. What worries me is four years as the starting nose tackle in our 3-4 defense could be a major physical stress to the body. I think Ratliff is fine where he is, he is at his best on the inside. Some say moving him to defensive end is the cure all for this exact problem. I thought during the season seeing Ratliff so worn down that it may be a good idea to convert him back to defensive end. Then I think about how good he was inside, All Pro and 3 Pro Bowls. So I am not entirely sure what would be best for Jay Ratliff. All I know is that this guy is a beast and he needs help.
Stephen Bowen is our best defensive end on the roster. His skills translate very well to what Rob Ryan asks of his defensive ends in his system. Igor Olshansky is a poor fit and does nothing to help Ratliff out at all. Marcus Spears was always a solid player, but lacked the pass rush and disruption necessary to be a productive defensive end in the new system. The Cowboys need to add another defensive end in the draft and it wouldn't shock me to see that rookie start over Igor to give Ratliff some help.
I am always worried that Ratliff will end up as a wasted talent. The same goes for Jason Witten and DeMarcus Ware, all three have All Pro type talent. These three special players may be the best at their respected positions and that is truly a unique thing in football have three players best at their positions. If we don't get Ratliff help I see him continuing to get worn down. If we get good defensive end play again Ratliff will dominate like he previously has for the past four years. Ratliff is truly a special talent and you should realize that. There just are not pass rushing nose tackles, they don't exist. That is why I think Ratliff is so unique and special, he is truly one of a kind. Ratliff will go down as one of the best Cowboys defensive lineman in the history of the franchise. His passion, devotion and tremendous play on the field should be valued highly. Besides being a great football player he is a natural leader. Ratliff stood up last season and spoke up about the team not performing well. On the sideline you could tell he was pissed off about losing the way we did. He never packed it in and went full throttle every single play.
I love the celebration Ratliff does too. I call it the "Donkey Kong" but I am not quite sure exactly what it is, I just know it is beastly. It started back when he was at Auburn and his child was being born that game day. One of the many reasons I love this guy so much is his passion. When he gets a sack or tackle and I see the Donkey Kong it gets me so pumped up. Hopefully Ratliff has many more Donkey Kong celebrations left in him. I truly hope he isn't wearing down and turning 30. It would crush me to see such a dominant player falloff in such a brief amount of time.
So I want every Dallas Cowboy fan on this website to pay tribute to Jay Ratliff below in the comment section. Show this man your support. Ratliff is one of my favorite all time players and should go into the Hall of Fame in my opinion. He redefined the nose tackle position and nobody will come close to the type of play this beast has supplied over the past four seasons. Josh Brent is next in line and I think Brent has tremendous upside. Ratliff speaks very highly of him as well. Josh Brent please value his time and learn everything you can from him. I don't think there will ever be another Jay Ratliff on the Cowboys team, that is how good of a player he is. He is polite, respectful and appreciates the fan base as well. I think Ratliff is the complete package as a human being and football player. Not bad for a converted tight end, to converted defensive end, to converted defensive tackle. Not bad for a 7th round draft pick, I will take those leftovers any day of the week. Jay Ratliff is the perfect beast.
Jay Ratliff Highlights (via truthfulmind)
Look at Ratliff stare down this little punk Texans fan. Yeah act tough little man, Ratliff eats children like you for breakfast.
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