(Editor's Note: Throughout the offseason, DallasCowboys.com staff writers will take a closer look at the roster, analyzing players' impact last season and how each fits into the team's 2012 plans. Today's Roster Rundown entry features linebacker DeMarcus Ware.)
Name: DeMarcus Ware
Position: Defensive End/Linebacker
Experience: 8 seasons
Key stat: Despite playing with injuries to his shoulder and elbow the second half of the season, Ware still led all Cowboys with 11.5 sacks, 33 quarterback pressures and five forced fumbles.
Contract Status: Signed through 2015.
How He Played In 2012:There have been times where I have been very critical of the way that DeMarcus Ware has played over the years. I felt like there were days where when this defense needed him the most with a sack or a pressure to end a drive or a game that he just didn't deliver enough. Right or wrong it was my belief because of my expectations of Ware. On this squad, there is no question that along with Sean
Lee, he is one of the best defensive players and when he struggles, the defense as a whole struggles. It doesn't take a trained NFL scout to see that. In 2012, I gained a whole new respect for Ware for his ability to fight through injuries throughout the season when his teammates were unable to answer the bell. I am not here to say that Ware is not a tough or committed player but it would have been very easy for him to be selfish and take himself out of the lineup and allow this defense to fight for a playoff spot without him, but he didn't allow that to happen, and for that he has my utmost respect.
As the season wore on, Ware became a shell of himself. A one-armed player that struggled with hamstring, shoulder and elbow problems. Just look at his sack totals starting after the Thanksgiving game against the Redskins. For Ware to only manage one and half sacks, along with one forced fumble in six games, there had to be something terribly wrong with his game. These were not the types of numbers that we are not used to seeing from Ware but in large part this was due to those injuries that robbed him of any opportunity to fight these offensive coordinators that were scheming against him. There was no way for Ware to protect himself and offenses were taking advantage of that.
How Does He Fit:There have been plenty of nights where I walked by Monte Kiffin's office when he first started this job and noticed that he was studying the Cowboys defense from last season to get an idea of what kind of personnel that he would be working with this upcoming season. When Rod Marinelli came on board, there were more nights of studying personnel to formulate ideas of what could be done with this
group. I am sure that they didn't see DeMarcus Ware at his very best but knew from their years in the league what they potentially had. Where Kiffin and Marinelli have had the most success in this defensive is taking players that have pass rush skill and making them even more dangerous. There is no doubt in my mind that DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff will benefit the most from this scheme change. With Ware lining up on the outside shoulder of the tackle and getting up the field as fast as he can with little responsibility will be something that suits his game to a tee. With Bruce Carter also to his outside will give him even more opportunities to be as disruptive as possible which to Kiffin and Marinelli would have it no other way.
Rowan Kavner –Ware remains the top pass rusher on this team, and it's possible Anthony Spencer's rise to prominence at the end of last season could help take the attention slightly off Ware next year. Despite how he's excelled as an outside linebacker throughout his career, many believe a switch to defensive end could make him even more effective. The biggest thing for the veteran is staying healthy, regardless of where he's playing. He toughed it out last [embedded_ad]
season, but by the end of the year, he admitted he was really playing with one arm. Ware's had at least 10 sacks every year since 2006, and how he adjusts to switching to defensive end could be the difference maker for this defense.