Yesterday the Dallas Cowboys finally released Greg Ellis, a long-awaited move that completed the clearout of malcontents in the Cowboy locker room.
The move came as a relief to Ellis, an 11-year veteran and first-round pick in 1998, who revealed that he wanted to leave two years ago after Dallas drafted Anthony Spencer to be his replacement.
“As far as football, for the last couple of seasons, it probably would have been better for me to be on another team,” Ellis said. “Not anything against the Cowboys – I love the guys, I love the Cowboys, obviously having been here so long – but it was kind of some awkward situations there.”
With Ellis gone, the starting OLB spot opposite DeMarcus Ware is Spencer’s to lose.
But does Spencer have what it takes to be the long-term replacement for Ellis?
Right now, I don’t know. Spencer has played only a bit part in his last two seasons in Dallas, getting limited snaps as Ellis’ backup. He hasn’t had much of a chance in Dallas’ 3-4 defense, with only 70 tackles and 4.5 sacks over the past two seasons.
But one thing is for sure: Spencer will join wide receiver Roy Williams as the most scrutinized players of the Dallas Cowboys.
Just like Terrell Owens’ release paved the way for Williams to be Tony Romo’s top receiver, Ellis’ departure hands the starting spot to Spencer on a silver platter. So, for the entirety of the season, Williams and Spencer will have to hear themselves compared to Owens and Ellis, respectively.
Spencer faces additional pressure from rookies Brandon Williams and Victor Butler, both drafted this year.
So, if Spencer slips up, he could be out of a starting job just as quickly as he found himself in it.
Cowboys linebacker coach Reggie Herring weighed in on Spencer’s abilities and gave the outside ‘backer an early vote of confidence.
“I think with the extra reps and having the ability that he does have, we’re expecting him to give us more sacks and more production,” Herring said. “It’s expected. The pressure’s on and I’m sure he’ll respond. He’s a pretty focused guy right now.”