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Ware was bothered by stinger and back injuries early in the year, but it sounds like he’s feeling as well right now as he has at any point during the season. That’s good news for a defensive line that’s struggled to create pressure the last two weeks.
“Actually, I feel really good,” Ware said. “I had the stinger for the last past two weeks. But now, I feel good. My back’s good, too.”
The Cowboys’ line had the unpleasant assignment of having to pressure Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning, two quarterbacks adept at getting the ball out quickly. A group that led the NFC with 13 sacks through the first three weeks has managed just one the last two weeks.
Ware said the defensive line isn’t frustrated, but the linemen need to find a way to be effective even in those circumstances where the quarterback has a quick release. He said he’s not getting double teamed every play, and when he gets the one-on-one assignment, he needs to deliver.
The Cowboys currently sit at No. 11 in sacks, but they’re No. 28 in yards allowed and 31st in passing yards allowed per game.
“Rankings are just statistics that everybody want to use to put you in a place,” Ware said. “I feel like it’s how you play week in and week out. We didn’t play like we should have played last week, and now we’ve got to bounce back. I know we’re going to play a better game this week.”
Ware’s still getting used to life as an every down defensive end in his move from linebacker. He’s come in and out of games before to adjust for injuries, but he only played on 72 percent of the defensive snaps last week against the Broncos. That number was actually 15 percent lower against the Rams.
He said the rotation is a result of the need to stay fresh in defensive line coach Rod Marinelli’s system. He also said playing defensive end is much more taxing than outside linebacker, particularly on long drives the opposing offense puts together.
“It’s a more strenuous job,” Ware said. “You’re getting more work, so you get tired a lot faster. The mentality of our defense, you’re going to go push yourself to the limit, relentlessness, you’re going to be tired a little bit. You’ve got to have guys rotating and able to run.”
When Ware wants to keep his legs fresh,
“It’s a long game,” Ware said. “When I played linebacker, I played 70 plays. Now, if there’s 70 plays, I might miss eight or nine or 10, give them to Wilber, because it’s different. Now you’re doing a lot more tussling.”
Could there be an argument that a tired Ware is better than a completely fresh backup?
“There could be,” Ware said. “That’s an argument, but it’s all about the full game. In the fourth quarter, if you’re gassed, 80 percent of me isn’t good when you’re gassed.”
Regardless of conditioning, if Ware can stay healthy, that should mean more snaps with him on the field. They’ll need him at his best to start generating the pressure the Cowboys’ were able to put on teams the first three weeks of the season, particularly against a Redskins team that swept the regular season series last year.
“Sometimes, they say the third time is a charm,” Ware said.