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Anthony Spencer Prepares To Take On A Larger Role On The Defense

After losing Sean Lee and Bruce Carter, the Cowboys are scrambling to fill an important role on their defense. Anthony Spencer is in the midst of a career season and he'll be taking on more of a leadership role with the defense as the signal-caller in the huddle.

Wesley Hitt

When it comes to injuries, the 2012 season hasn't been kind to the Dallas Cowboys. Of course, football is a physical and violent sport that will always present a variety of injuries. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, they have lost a lot of key players on defense. Sean Lee was the leader of the defense, then he went down for the year with an injury to his toe that required surgery. Bruce Carter did an outstanding job filling in for Lee. Honestly, I believe that Carter has been the best player on the Cowboys this season.

Lee was a devastating loss, but losing Carter to a dislocated left elbow that will put him on inured reserve just stings even more. Ernie Sims was signed back in October in order to provide some depth at inside linebacker after Lee went down. The former ninth overall pick has actually been a welcome addition to the Cowboys' defense. Dan Connor hasn't been a liability in coverage the past few weeks, and he has looked strong against the run. The Cowboys have also added former Green Bay Packer Brady Poppinga for more depth at inside linebacker.

You would think that Sims or Connor would take over the role as the defensive signal caller, but defensive coordinator Rob Ryan chose another player to lead his defense. As surprising as it may be, Anthony Spencer will be taking over in the huddle and calling the plays for the defense.

Usually the middle linebacker assumes the play calling responsibility, so it's a little surprising that Spencer is taking on this role in place of Carter. Spencer actually began his new role on Thanksgiving in the fourth quarter against the Washington Redskins. So what's it like having Rob Ryan in your head? Spencer talked about having Ryan screaming into his helmet.

"I’d say it to myself after I heard it, so it’s just repeating it now," Spencer said. "The only different thing is he’ll yell, ‘Watch this! Check this!,’ and other little stuff. You can communicate that within the time sometimes until it goes out."

Spencer is easily having his best season as a Dallas Cowboy. Not only is Spencer having a great statistical season, it appears that he is willing to do what ever it takes and take on more of a leadership role with the team. Spencer has received his fair share of criticism during his career in Dallas, but give the man credit for what he is doing on the field in 2012. His 6.5 sacks are a career high and Spencer is delivering plays in big moments.

After receiving the franchise tag worth $8.84 million, Spencer could be franchised again if he and the Cowboys don't work out a long-term contract. The Cowboys will have a difficult decision to make. Can he continue to play at this type of level if he recieves a long-term contract?

Spencer will turn 29 years old this January. If the Cowboys do decide to lock Spencer up, then they will be getting a player entering the prime of his career. Obviously the contract issue is something that's going to be on Spencer's mind, but he insists that you have to keep it one day at a time.

"I feel like you’re only as good as your last game, so I really just try to go out there and play with that type of attitude and just keep playing every week regardless of the circumstances," he said. "You definitely can’t get too far ahead of yourself in this game, cause it’ll show."

Spencer is a much better football player then I gave him credit for last season, but he still needs to provide the sacks and pressure consistently in order to become a great player. Spencer has always been a good player, but he is now beginning to elevate his game to another level. The biggest issue with Spencer during his career was consistency. There were times where he would disappear for games at a time. So far in 2012, Spencer has not disappeared in games and has been a legitimate presence in the pass rush.

It's looking like former first-round picks Felix Jones and Mike Jenkins will be leaving the team next offseason. It would really be tough to watch another first-round draft pick walk out of Dallas. If he keeps it up, then the Cowboys will have no choice but to lock him up to a long-term deal. This has been a big year for Spencer. He's playing the best football of his career, and he is taking on more responsibility. If that isn't the RKG, then I don't know what is. I never thought that I would say it, but Spencer looks like he deserves to be a part of this football team for a very long time.

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