his tackle total. Learning to play the run was the toughest part of his transition from defensive end to linebacker. In fact, he just wasn't very good at that his rookie year, especially early when he would fail to keep containment to the outside.
Why, just the other week when I asked him about how first-round pick Anthony Spencer's same transition was going this year, Ware raved about how well the former Purdue defensive end is playing the run compared to his rookie season performance.
He would blatantly admit he stunk at it.
Now, he does a bang-up job of keeping containment and he's become most dangerous when the plays are going away from him. That's what Phillips was referencing. Normally when you are playing outside on the 3-4, you are out of any running play away from you. Too far to get in too short a time.
Not for Ware. Teams can't ignore blocking him just because they are going the other way. With his speed he can track down the ball carrier. And if they do block him backside, they had better do a better job than just chipping. With his strength, he'll run over anything less than a stout effort.
That's what is most deceptive about Ware: His strength. He's not just one of those one-dimensional speed rushers who become liabilities against the run.
After his rookie season when the Cowboys were dabbling with the possibility of selecting pass-rusher Manny Lawson with their first-round pick - seemingly a Ware clone - then defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer told me if they did he could simply move Ware to the left side of the defensive formation and play Lawson to Ware's old right side.
You mean the strong side, over there where he would have to take on the tight end mostly and play the run? That side?
Zimmer would tell me the 6-4, 252-pound Ware was one of the team's strongest defensive players, and that has become evident in only his third season in the league. To think, this kid is only 25 years old. Wait until his body matures.
But let's not get too carried away from what's important when it comes to Ware: Sacks, and that is why Phillips doesn't ask him much anymore the way Parcells did in his 3-4 scheme to become a cover guy. Phillips likes Ware running forward, not backwards.
Ware just might start moving up the team's all-time sack charts, and understand that's a pretty impressive Who's Who chart when you think of some of the guys who have played for the Cowboys besides Jeffcoat: Tony Tolbert, Charles Haley, Randy White, Harvey Martin, Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Jethro Pugh, George Andrie and some guy named Bob Lilly. There are two Pro Football Hall of Famers in there, with who knows, maybe another one or two to come.
While Jeffcoat holds the team's official single-season record, Tolbert had been the last Cowboys player to register double-digit sacks in a season (12 in 1996) until Ware bagged 11½ last year. Haley's 12½ sacks in 1994 are the most by a Cowboys player since Jeffcoat's record-setting 14 in 1986. Overtaking both totals would be within Ware's reach.
And just to demonstrate how precious sacks are, Jeffcoat's 14 sacks in 1986 are the most by a Cowboys player in the past 28 seasons. You have to go back all the way to Randy White's 16 in 1978 to find more, but again from the NFL's non-recognized sack seasons.
Now the unofficial club record is the 23 sacks Harvey Martin totaled in 1977, back when sacks were recorded at the discretion of the team, not the league. But know that other than Martin's 23 and White's 16, only four other players have ever recorded more than Jeffcoat's 14 official sacks - Martin and Andrie had 14½-sack seasons, Pugh had 15½ in 1968 and Andrie had 18½ in 1966.
Who knows how high Ware's sack total will climb, but he certainly has a projected chance to become the first Cowboys player to at least pass Tolbert after all these years, and possibly even catch Jeffcoat 21 seasons later. After all, with Greg Ellis coming from the other side, the development of Spencer and Jason Hatcher and the addition of Tank Johnson to possibly provide a significant middle push, the sky just might be his limit.
Face it, Ware and Ellis as either the outside linebackers in the