Behind a superb effort by their special team and a bunch of “no-name” defensive lineman, the Dallas Cowboys were able to beat the Washington Redskins on Sunday. Maybe more importantly, this game also signified what I believe to be a changing of the guard in the Cowboys defensive unit.
With soft-spoken, but heavy hammer defensive end DeMarcus Ware out of the game in the second half of Dallas’ victory due to a strained right-quad muscle, the Cowboys new defensive leaders stepped up and seized the win. Linebacker Sean Lee, defensive tackle Jason Hatcher and cornerback Brandon Carr are quickly becoming the new face of the Dallas “D”, and replacing the old guard.
To be honest, this change really started with the release of long-time Cowboys corner Terence Newman after the 2011 season. Brandon Carr was signed to replace him the following year. At that same time, Dallas veteran middle linebacker (and friend of the TLH site) Bradie James was released to make way for the force that is currently Sean Lee. Now it appears, Jason Hatcher’s increased level of play has Cowboys owner Jerry Jones thinking twice about bringing All-Pro defensive tackle Jay Ratliff back from the PUP list. As they say: “Out with the old, in with the new.”
But what goes without saying is it’s near sacrilege to think anyone can replace DeMarcus Ware. He’s already a Hall of Famer in my book. And this was supposed to be his comeback season, although he never really went anywhere. But last season, Ware struggled with injuries and recorded a career low in total tackles.
This off-season, the 31-year old looked healthier and faster than ever. He started off with a bang as well, getting an interception off of New York Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning at the very beginning of the game in Week One. Ware followed that up the next two weeks by recording a total of four sacks. But in his last three games, Ware’s play has been underwhelming. He even admitted as much after their recent loss to the San Diego Chargers when throwing out comments like “Just didn’t play the game I needed to play” and “….especially me, being myself, we got to get to the quarterback a lot more effectively.”
But Ware’s recent lack of productivity is probably more of a bump in the road then a career decline. Regardless, the point is: there are now a group of young, up-and-coming defensive players ready to take up his mantle as the Cowboys defensive leader. And boys, the future looks bright.