Evaluating Dallas Cowboy Rob Ryan's Defense: The Front 5

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Another All-Pro season.

DeMarcus Ware (Oct. 2009: Signed a seven-year, $79 million contract. $20 million signing bonu). – He had another impressive year; he racked up 19.5 sacks, narrowly missing becoming the only player in NFL history to have 20 sacks in more than 1 season. He was held without a sack in just four contests (Miami, Seattle, Detroit and the first game against the Giants). He is clearly one of the best defensive players in the league; he is almost certainly headed for the Hall of Fame. That being said, there were games when he seemed to be contained by a single blocker. He tied for the team lead with 10 penalties. I seem to recall an offside and/or neutral zone infraction at two or three very inopportune times. Cowboy fans are not accustomed to D-Ware having these sort of mental lapses.

I know it is difficult to take your best player of the field, but it is hard not to think that Ware would be more effective late in games, and late in the season, if he was given a few plays off here and there. I can’t find the snap count totals for the season, but I do remember that there was a time in November when Ware was on the bench for less than 2 snaps a game. It is hard not to think that Ware’s getting ‘banged up’ the last two seasons (neck stingers and the like) may be related to the enormous number of snaps he plays. Ware will turn 30 this summer, so it is possible that these minor injuries will happen more often and take longer to recover from.

Ware is obviously the catalyst in Rob Ryan’s defensive scheme, but it was clear this season that he needs more help from the rest of the defense when it comes to generating a consistent pass-rush.

We did see Ware used in a variety of novel ways this season, some of which were successful. Ware and Spencer did switch sides at least a few times in almost every game, allowing Ware to rush the RT rather than traditional LT. On 3rd and long we also saw him lined up inside one of the other OLB’s (usually Spencer or Victor Butler), so he was rushing more from the traditional DE spot.

It will be very interesting to see how creative Rob Ryan will get in using Ware next season, and whether he will use Ware any more sparingly. I am sure that Rob Ryan is currently daydreaming about getting a true NT, and the match-up problems he could terrorize OL’s with if he had Ware and Ratliff rushing from the same side

Victor Butler (July,2009: Signed a four-year, $2.248 million contract; $498,540 signing bonus.) Butler played very well in limited opportunities. Despite the fact that he only played about 20% of the snaps, he still logged 23 tackles, 3 sacks, which are impressive totals when you factor in the small number of plays he played. He also made some big plays (sacks, pressure, and run-stops) at important times. Given that Spencer is a free agent, Butler may become the starter next year. Even if Spencer stays with the team, expect Butler to get more and more opportunities to contribute to this team; he has certainly earned it.

Alex Albright: I could not find the details of his contract. He played so infrequently last season, I still don’t know much about him.

Click on the link to read about Anthony Spencer:

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