Jay Ratliff is ready for the defense to step up.
The Cowboys may not have a Ray Lewis type of leader on their defense, but nose tackle Jay Ratliff is one of the vocal leaders on this team. Ratliff has become one of the biggest success stories on this team. He has gone from being a seventh-round draft pick back in 2005, to one of the best players at his position. When you consider that he is only 6'4 and 287 pounds, it's pretty amazing that he plays a position that is dominated by larger players.
Ratliff isn't your typical nose tackle, but he will go down in history as one of the most disruptive nose tackles to ever play the game. It may have come as a surprise when the Cowboys signed Ratliff to a five-year, $40 million contract extension. Considering that Ratliff will turn 31 this August, it may not have been the wisest decision to extend a player on the wrong side of 30. Hopefully he will continue to be a dominant player, but five years is a long time for a player who takes a beating for a living.
Ratliff recently conducted an interview on "The Ticket", which is aired on KTCK 1310-AM, and he had plenty to talk about.
Take the jump....
In past seasons, the media has been critical about the results that the Cowboys have produced. This team has not lived up to the expectations that they were branded with by the media. Every year the Cowboys are expected to be a contender for the Super Bowl, but the last two seasons this team has fallen short of making the playoffs. Ratliff weighed in on the topic during his interview on The Ticket.
"We’re not going to sit here and talk about what we’re going to do this year or all the expectations everyone else has for us," he told KTCK 1310-AM "The Ticket." "I think the attitude for us this year needs to be we’re going to be quiet. To put it bluntly, we’re going to shut up, not say a thing and do our jobs."
Ratliff is a very passionate man who usually says what is on his mind. I agree with him that the time for talking is over with and it's time to see this team begin to produce some real results. We can debate that this team has it's holes, every team does, but I believe this team is far too talented to be flopping around the way they do once December comes around.
One of Ratliff's closest friends on the team is fellow defensive lineman Jason Hatcher. Hatcher really came on strong last year and is beginning to become one of our best defensive lineman. Ratliff spoke about how the defense feels more confident and how Hatcher is ready to become even more of a disruptive force.
"The defense is way more confident this year," the eighth-year veteran said. "You have players really stepping up. One player that comes to mind is Jason Hatcher. We’re looking for him to have a breakout season. He’s more confident in the defense. He’s doing great things, creating a lot of disruption. The defensive backs are all over the place. Those guys are communicating. Everyone’s challenging the pass. No one’s sitting there waiting for the ball to come to make a tackle. They’re going for the ball. It’s a really aggressive defense. Everybody seems to have a great understanding of it. Everyone’s on the same page. We’re expecting great things from ourselves."
Some said that the lockout was just an excuse for the Cowboys to use for their poor defensive performance last year, but I believe it did play a big role in a lot of the problems they faced in 2011. Wade Phillips ran a completely different 3-4 defense than Rob Ryan. Due to a shortened offseason to implement and install the new scheme, Ryan saw his defense fall apart down the stretch. This defense should be a lot more comfortable and familiar with the scheme this year.
"Honestly, we don’t have room to talk," he said. "The giants are the Super Bowl champions. They’ve won two Super Bowls in the last five years. We just need to be quiet and do our jobs. Nothing else."
I really love that Ratliff is staying humble here and continues to promote the "stay quiet and do our jobs" type of attitude. We really have no room to talk bad about the Giants right now because recently they have two Super Bowl titles while we have one playoff win. It hurts to admit that, but it is the truth. Until we start beating them again, we have to look at the Giants as the team to beat in our division.
During the offseason there was a lot of talk about the window closing on the core of the Cowboys' football team to win a championship. Everyone from Tony Romo to Jerry Jones has weighed in on this, and Ratliff also gave us his thoughts on the topic.
"The only thing that I notice is your mentality. You really want to take advantage of these moments," he said. "The window’s kind of closing. In your 30s, the way this business is, that’s kind of old, or whatever. I don’t feel old. ... I think the word I’m looking for is urgency."
Ratliff is no fool, he realizes that this is a young man's game. The window won't shut right away, but the time for the core group of this team to win a Super Bowl may not be open for long. If this team isn't hungry or urgent by now, then there is a real problem, but I believe we have the right type of attitude entering the season. Under the Wade Phillips coached Cowboys there was a sense of entitlement, but I really believe that type of thinking has left Dallas for good.
The idea of moving Ratliff to defensive end will always be a good discussion. I have always been curious to where Ratliff believes he should play, and he also talked about that.
"Honestly? I really don’t care," the former seventh-round pick out of Auburn said. "At the end of the day, the opportunity came for me to play nose. I took it. I do my job. I need to go to defensive end, whatever the team needs, I’m willing to do that. Everyone always talks about size: You’re not big enough, I don’t know if you’re strong enough, this that or the other. They look at all the numbers. But how do you measure a man’s will just to get the job done? That’s all it is. There’s my secret."
That is the perfect answer right there. Ratliff is willing to play where ever he has to in order to help his football team. He has the athletic ability, but he also has the fire and passion to play anywhere and succeed. Ratliff is always a great interview because his answers come from the heart, and you have to respect that about him.
We have seen his sack total decrease since 2008, so there is some concern that this could be the beginning of the end for Ratliff. Ratliff hasn't received a lot of help from his defensive ends and linebackers recently, so that could also be a factor in the decrease of his sacks total. Teams have also begun to scheme against him and put more blockers on Ratliff to slow him down.
He may turn 31 years old this August, but we should still expect #90 to be one of the best nose tackles in the league next year. Will Ratliff have a more productive season? Or will he begin to deteriorate even more? I believe Ratliff has a few more years in him, but he does need to start receiving some help from his defensive teammates.