DeMarcus Ware will go down as one of the all-time great pass rushers in NFL history. Many forget that he almost wasn't drafted by the Cowboys. Then head coach Bill Parcells wanted to draft LSU defensive lineman Marcus Spears with the first of two first-round draft picks. Fortunately for the Cowboys, owner Jerry Jones intervened on behalf of the franchise in the war room.
As scary as it is to even contemplate Ware not being drafted by Dallas, there is the possibility of losing him for an extended amount of time. Football is a physical sport, injuries happen. Obviously you cannot be stocked full of talent at every position on the depth chart, but you can prepare for a impact players hole in the starting lineup.
Tony Romo is just as important as Ware is to the team, but the Cowboys finally have a reliable option in Kyle Orton. In case Romo were to go down with another injury, Orton could somewhat hold the pieces together. The same can be said for DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones. They both can step in for each other and pickup where the other one left off. Miles Austin and Dez Bryant are another example of having quality players at the same position. Last year Laurent Robinson capitalized due to various injuries at the wide receiver position. A talented player deep on the depth chart can make a big contribution.
There are some areas on the depth chart that have quality players behind them who can possibly step into the starters role. The one area the Cowboys really don't have an answer for in case of long term injury is outside linebacker. Losing Ware would be a catastrophic event that would change the shape of the football team for the worse.
Ware Would The Cowboys Be Without #94?
Every single time I play the situation out in my head, I end up with nightmares. Ware is just so valuable to this defense, a 3-4 scheme that is built around his strengths. Frankly, the Cowboys have done a poor job assembling a defense around him. You would think after all of these years with Ware as the centerpiece, the defense built around would be a better unit. That is a whole other topic, but anyone who watches the Cowboys can tell you Ware is what makes their defense click.
Without him, who knows just how ugly it would get. He already plays almost every snap on defense and accounted for almost 50 percent of the sacks last year. How long can you rely on that type of production? Ware is the identity of the Cowboys defense, and a lot of the pressure comes from him. It's just going to be hard for him to continue producing almost half of the teams sacks. At some point, they will need to upgrade the pass rush.
The Ryan And Ware Combination
He has played for some great defensive coaches. Bill Parcells, Wade Phillips and Rob Ryan all at one point were at the top of the league as defensive masterminds. Ware has had great coaching, but now he has a chance to team up with Ryan for a second year. Ryan knows that he has one of the best pass rushers in the game at his disposal, but he must continue building around Ware. That solely relies on Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett actually allowing Ryan to get in some input in the war room this year.
Is it any surprise that he had one of the best seasons of his career with 19.5 sacks last season under Ryan as defensive coordinator? Wade Phillips became somewhat lazy his last two years coaching Ware, he never moved him around to confuse the opposing offense. Ryan is getting creative, allowing Ware to line up all over the field to generate mismatches.
Ware is looking forward to another year working with the fiery defensive coordinator for the 2012 season.
And I think there's going to be a big improvement having Rob Ryan for a whole another year, knowing his system, knowing what's really going on. Having Jason Garrett the leader, that motivational guy for us. I think it's going to all just pan out next season.
While Cowboys continue to build their defensive line up, their personnel will become more comfortable with the scheme. Next year we could finally see an improved defense ready to take the next step. It will be interesting to see another year with Ware in Ryan's pressure based attack.
Finding A Pass Rusher Behind Ware
He definitely is in his prime, but Ware does turn 30 years old this July. Fortunately we don't have to even begin considering replacing Ware, we just have to add a good pass rusher to back him up. Adding a quality linebacker behind him would do a few things.
- Having Ware get a breather occasionally might be a good idea. I saw him out of gas far too many times at the end of games, but it wasn't due to a conditioning problem, he was just flat out tired. That tends to happen when you play almost every snap. Allowing him to rest maybe 10-15 snaps earlier in games by replacing him with a capable player from the sideline would keep him fresh later on in crunch time.
- Watching him go down against the Chargers during the 2010 season was a scary sight. Having someone behind him who could generate a pass rush would at least give us some relief in case of an injury. I don't know if Anthony Spencer and Victor Butler could be enough to win football games.
- Adding a better pass rusher would allow Antony Spencer to play running situations, where he is great against the run. Then on passing situations, you could pair Ware with the better pass rusher and create more chaos.
- Preparing and developing a player behind Ware also allows the Cowboys to potentially groom his replacement. If a young and talented pass rusher could learn under him, he would be learning from one of the best to ever suit up. I can't think of a better teacher than DeMarcus Ware.
Will The Cowboys Draft A Pass Rusher?
What has concerned me during the Cowboys draft preparation is the lack of focus on a outside linebacker. I wish there were more prospects invited to Valley Ranch, but it is what it is. The team has only invited Courtney Upshaw, Ronnell Lewis, Braylon Broughton and Adrian Hamilton. Upshaw is the only player invited who will be in play with the 14th overall pick. Many folks here on BTB are not fans of his, but I wouldn't mind the Cowboys drafting him because they would be getting a good football player.
Broughton is the type of conversion kit the team would be interested in the late rounds of the draft. He does look the part, but is clearly a project at this point. The same can be said for small-school prospect Adrian Hamilton. He does look intriguing, and he would be the type of project that makes sense for the team long term.
South Carolina defensive lineman Melvin Ingram has been one of my preferred targets for a very long time. I must admit I was very disappointed the team didn't bring him in for a visit. Ingram is the type of versatile player that I believe would be a great fit for Rob Ryan and his unique defensive scheme. He is also the type of draft pick at 14 that would give the Cowboys a situational pass rusher with the upside to be a starter down the road.
The 49ers drafted Aldon Smith with the 7th overall pick. He didn't start for them, but he made a huge impact with 13.5 sacks. The Giants drafted Jason Pierre-Paul with the 15th overall pick in 2010. The success those two have had sells me on the idea of drafting just a "situational" pass rusher. I don't know if the Cowboys will draft a pass rusher early, but I wish they would at least consider it.
DeMarcus Ware is almost irreplaceable, but considering looking for his future replacement in the draft would give the Cowboys another pass rusher to utilize on defense. The NFL is a copycat league, and after watching the Giants continually stock up on pass rushers, maybe it is time to follow their model of success.