Eatman: Lee's Injury Costly; But Let's Not Forget Spencer's Play

Well there hasn't been a position talked about more this week than linebacker. The crushing news of Sean Lee out for the season has put the microscope on this position all week.

Will Bruce Carter step up and carry the load? What about Dan Connor now starting? Does Ernie Sims have what it takes to resurrect his career?

And that's just the inside backers. When you're wondering if Lee is the most productive player on the defense, the only real argument has been the outside backer DeMarcus Ware, who has led this team in sacks every year of his career.

But let's try to stay positive here – and we can do that by staying at linebacker.

We all saw what Spencer did in Carolina.  That old saying of you don't know what you've got until it's gone popped up in a major way when Spencer was out for two games with a pectoral strain.

He came back with a vengeance against the Panthers. He was active against the run, he was applying pressure to Cam Newton all day long and then in the final seconds, he slammed the door with a sack that ultimately finished off Carolina and got the Cowboys a much-needed win.

You know the Cowboys coaches –mainly Jason Garrett and Rob Ryan – have said for a while now just how productive Spencer really is. They've told us not to look at just sacks, and don't compare him to Ware on the other side.

Not only are they different players with different skills, but they don't exactly play the same position.

Spencer's main job is to stop the run and he usually has an offensive tackle and a tight end to contend with.

That being said, you might be surprised with some of the numbers.

While Ware has 6 ½ sacks to Spencer's 3… Spence leads the Cowboys with 12 quarterback pressures, while Ware has 10.
Ware has 43 tackles and three behind the line of scrimmage, and Spencer has 38 and two for loss.

Did I mention Spencer missed two games?

Hey, I'm not trying to compare Spencer to Ware because what they've done over their careers really aren't close at all. Ware is one of the best overall players in the NFL and has been for a while.

But if Ware is a measuring stick, Spencer isn't far behind.

A lot of skeptics just couldn't understand why Spencer would warrant an $8.8 million franchise tag. Not only did it seem high for a player who has never had more than six sacks in a season, but just the notion of "Franchise" suggests he's a player the Cowboys simply can't do without.

Well … I think we're seeing here in the last month the Cowboys have definitely missed him.

There is no doubt Anthony Spencer will get a big contract next year. Will it be in Dallas or another team? Could it happen in the middle of this year? Does Spencer now want to wait to test the market? All of that now remains to be seen.

But what isn't' much of a mystery anymore is just how valuable Spencer is to this defense. He showed us that in two games on the sideline and then confirmed when he returned last Sunday.

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