DeMarcus Ware leads charge for Dallas Cowboys defensive renaissance
It’s hard to believe there were even questions about whether DeMarcus Ware could transition from being an outside linebacker to a defensive end. Three games into his new life as a 4-3 defensive end, Ware is making it look awfully easy.
Ware has four sacks in three games, including a pair against St. Louis in the Dallas Cowboys’ 31-7 win over the Rams. In doing so, Ware became the Cowboys’ all-time sack leader, passing the legendary Harvey Martin, who had 114 sacks.
That record-tying sack was a lesson in NFL violence. Ware, with his hand in the ground, popped up and bull-rushed former All-Pro tackle Jake Long. Ware, almost absurdly, decleated Long as if he were delivering a blind-side block on special teams. Long flailed backwards, leaving quarterback Sam Bradford defenseless.
Dallas' defense is undergoing a renaissance that not even the most clairvoyant football fan could have envisioned.
In what was perhaps a pre-ordained victory, Ware earned his record-breaking 115th career sack in the second half. Ware told reporters that a child with the Make-A-Wish Foundation predicted a Cowboys win on one condition, “DeMarcus Ware has to have a whole lot of sacks,” the boy said.
“Kudos to him – it was true,” Ware said. “But everyone got pressure and that’s what put us over the top.”
Truthfully this front four is undergoing some kind of a renaissance that not even the most clairvoyant football fan could have envisioned. In Monte Kiffin’s Cover 2 the front four is vital. It must pressure the backfield without much help from the linebackers and defensive backs to be effective.
Against the Rams, the Cowboys notched a half-dozen sacks, bringing the team total to 13 for the season. After three games last season, the Cowboys had only seven sacks.
Of course, last year the Cowboys were in the 3-4 and coached by Rob Ryan. Like his predecessor, Wade Phillips, he asked his outside linebackers, Ware and Anthony Spencer, to drop in pass coverage and do other non-defensive end duties, along with rushing the quarterback.
The move to the 4-3 has freed up Ware. He no longer has to worry about pass coverage. All he has to do is pin his ears back, put his hand down and rush the passer. Few football players get the opportunity to indulge in such a single-minded purpose.
But it isn’t just Ware. Jason Hatcher, the interior tackle who really didn’t put up much in the way of statistics in the 3-4, has three sacks in three games. The scrap heap pick-up, George Selvie, has two sacks while starting in place of the injured Spencer. Youngster Kyle Wilber, an outside linebacker last year, notched his first sack on Sunday.
There have been times in the past when the Cowboys were stymied by relying too heavily on pressure from Ware and no one else. Not in this Cover 2 scheme, as constructed by defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Everyone rushes and everyone makes the offensive line pay.
It’s the four equals one philosophy. Only in the NFL can four equal one.
“It’s like Rod (defensive line coach Marinelli) says, ‘Four equals one,’” Ware said. “When you have four guys rushing consistently, doing the same thing and being effective, it benefits everyone.”
Some have accused Ware of being a one-trick pony during his NFL career. Well, this particular pony has 115 career sacks and is on track to have a season that could make his previous campaigns pale in comparison.
It’s hard to argue with relying on this pony when the trick is so vital to the Cowboys’ playoff berth.