There are many reasons for Dallas Cowboys fans to be excited as we approach the 2013 season. New defensive scheme, emerging talent on both sides of the ball, perhaps even a decent offensive line; yet, from my point of view, the most exciting thing to happen this season could revolve around DeMarcus Ware. On yesterday's front page, OCC posed the question "Could DeMarcus Ware set a new NFL sack record in 2013?" My answer was yes, and now I want to expand on that thought. Let's take a look at why Ware may have his biggest season yet.
The "Whole" Truth
As most of us know, Ware played the second half of last season with injuries; in fact, by the final game against Washington Ware could not even lift his arm. Off season shoulder surgery and intense rehab have taken care of his physical limitations and Ware is ready to go. Speaking with Carlos Mendez, DWare had this to say:
"Playing at least eight games where you’re not at least totally healthy, your mind sort of has to take over, but your body is not doing what your mind is telling it to do," Ware said. "And now being able to do everything, go out and play, feel whole again, feels really good."
A healthy DeMarcus Ware, motivated by what was for him a down season, does not bode well for the rest of the league.
"Scheming" to Get the Job Done
The switch to the 4-3 in general, and Monte Kiffin's "Dallas-2" in particular, will benefit Ware. This is a defensive scheme that relies heavily on pressure from the front four to make it work effectively. As we have scene, Dallas has "rushmen" rather than defensive linemen; this reveals a lot about the mindset involved. The front four are focused on getting after the QB this season. DWare had this to say about his role in the new defense:
"Going from 3-4 outside linebacker to playing defensive end is actually a little bit easier because you don’t have to worry about a lot of formations in the drops," Ware told the NFL Network. "So you get more opportunity to rush the passer, so it’s a lot easier, you can be a lot more aggressive because you don’t have to think as much."
When given a chance to elaborate further he added this:
"You ask the fastest man in the world: Can you run faster out of a two-point stance or a three-point stance?" Ware said. "He comes out of the block in a three-point stance."
Ware has always been known to have a quick first step and the ability to use his athleticism to beat his man; the Kiffin/Marinelli defense has given him a tool that is going to make him ever quicker.
"Ninety-eight percent of the time we’re talking some kind of strategy," defensive end Anthony Spencer said.
"He’s always working on his craft; that’s why he’s the best in the league," defensive tackle Jason Hatcher said. "A guy like that working his craft, it’s kind of contagious."
For good measure, Todd Archer of ESPNDallas added his own observations to the same article.
In the locker room he might use a head-and-shoulder fake to get by an unsuspecting media member. Before practice he will work on a swim move on the goalpost to perfect his footwork. In the meeting room he might take another defensive lineman aside and do a dip-and-rip or a stab move. During a downtime in practice he will take Tyron Smith and work his punch.
As they say, you make your own breaks in this world, and DWare clearly is taking every opportunity to make his.
The Marinelli Factor
To me, this may be the biggest factor of all. Not only is Ware being coached by one of the best in the business, defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, but he feels that for the first time there is full coaching focus on his his pass rushing skills. Again from Todd Archer:
He views Marinelli as his first full-time pass rush coach in his eight years. In Oxnard, Calif., Ware and Marinelli were often engaged in lengthy discussions about pass rushing.
Think of it this way, DeMarcus Ware may be the best pass rusher in the league and Dallas has brought in a coach who is focused on making him even better. Warren Sapp has stated that he told Ware that he expects 25 sacks this season because he knows what Marinelli teaches. Lofty expectations to be sure, but certainly not out of the question. The main thing that DeMarcus says that he took from his conversation with Sapp is "that everything is based on effort to which technique is added. The result of that combination is that you make big plays" when it comes together.
Having Some Help
As was stated earlier, the Dallas-2 is built around four guys getting pressure on the quarterback. We saw what Anthony Spencer could do when he was freed up to apply pressure last season. In this defense, he too will be called on to bring outside heat. In addition, the guys in the middle will also be focused on getting to the passer, and they too will benefit from what Marinelli teaches. Guys like Jay Ratliff, Jason Hatcher, Nick Hayden, and Ben Bass will also be pinning their ears back, so teams will not be able to focus solely on stopping Ware. Something will have to give somewhere, and DeMarcus will get his opportunities.
From my point of view, DeMarcus Ware is at the point in his career where things really have the potential to come together in a "perfect storm" scenario. At this point in time he is in perhaps the best shape of his career due to his rehab from off season surgery, he is in a defensive scheme that will take the best advantage of his skill as a pass rusher, he has the ideal RKG mindset to keep pushing himself to get even better, for the first time he has a full time pass rushing coach to help perfect his skills, and he is surrounded by teammates who will take on some of the pass rush burden. Those factors should come together to help make Warren Sapp's expectation of 25 sacks a legitimate possibility. The next step is to actually go out and get it done. Is there anyone out there who doubts that DeMarcus Ware is capable of that?