Jean-Jacques Taylor is one of my favorite sports writers. I highly recommend reading everything he writes. Go Dallas Cowboys! Randy
Inside the Dallas Cowboys
Ware should top NFL.com’s list of best defensive players
By JEAN-JACQUES TAYLOR
The Dallas Morning News
DeMarcus Ware is right. He should be higher on NFL.com’s list of the league’s best players.
Ware was No. 12 on the list — the top 10 will be revealed Sunday — according to a vote of fellow players. For discussion purposes, he was the fifth-rated defensive player behind, in some order, the Jets’ Darrelle Revis, Baltimore’s Ray Lewis and Ed Reed , Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu and Chicago’s Julius Peppers.
If I were starting a team today — the key word is today — I’d probably take Ware over all of the others. The only one close is Revis, but most scouts will tell you a dominant pass rusher ranks higher on the priority list than the best cover cornerback in the NFL.
In previous years, I’d have no argument with Lewis, Reed and Polamalu ranking ahead of Ware. But Lewis is 35, and there’s no way I’d pick him over Ware at this point of their careers.
Leadership is wonderful and Lewis is one of the best ever, but his career is rapidly nearing an end. Reed and Polamalu have had injury issues, and you wonder if they will continue to be among the best in the league or whether the injuries have taken their toll and will reduce their effectiveness.
Ware is simply better than Peppers. He’s a better run-stopper and a better pass rusher.
Since 2005, Ware has an NFL-best 80 sacks. Peppers has 59. Ware has 25 forced fumbles. Peppers has 21.
Peppers might occasionally make the more spectacular play because of his athleticism, but Ware brings it every game. Peppers does not.
Q: What do you think about Rob Ryan and the Cowboys defense in 2011?
TAYLOR: It’s hard to say because there haven’t been any minicamps or OTAs to figure out how they’re going to use their personnel. Ryan’s biggest task is getting the guys on this defense to play to their potential. He needs to get Mike Jenkins, Anthony Spencer, Terence Newman and Jay Ratliff playing their best football next season, which wasn’t the case in 2010. If the defense improves and finishes among the top 10 in points allowed — who cares about yards allowed? — this team has a chance to make the playoffs. Until then, it doesn’t.
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Q: Any optimism regarding Akwasi Owusu-Ansah?
TAYLOR: Not really, and that’s not a knock on him. As I often say, it’s not my job to have hope or faith or optimism. My job is to deal in reality. The reality is he had a shoulder injury when he arrived in Dallas and never really had a chance to play last season. He has size and athleticism, but he played at a small college and must still adjust to the speed and intensity of the NFL. He’ll get a chance this season. Let’s see if he can do it.
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Q: For all the talk about how Anthony Spencer will thrive in Rob Ryan’s defense, in my opinion there has been a void at left outside linebacker since Greg Ellis was released. What do you think?
Jonathan Hazel, Richmond, Va.
TAYLOR: You’re right. The problem is Spencer has yet to live up to expectations. He has yet to put a complete season together. He has had some terrific games and some outstanding stretches of five or six consecutive games, but he has not had a dominating season and he has never had more than 61/2 sacks. While he has been strong against the run, the 3-4 defense is all about the outside linebackers putting pressure on the quarterback, something Spencer hasn’t done.
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Q: How accurately can Rob Ryan assess the defensive players from stats, film and others’ opinions without seeing them go through drills on the field?
TAYLOR: He can do a pretty good job of knowing what individual players can do based on watching film, but he can’t get a feel for what they can do within his scheme until they’re on the field. More important, he can’t teach the scheme to them. There’s new terminology and new techniques guys have to learn — and that can only be learned on the field.
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Q: Do you think Jerry Jones learned an important lesson from Mark Cuban on the value of just shutting up and letting the coaches coach.
Prentice L. Freeman Jr.
TAYLOR: That really had nothing to do with the Mavericks’ success. Cuban has been talking long and loud since he bought the team. The Mavs have had 11 consecutive 50-win seasons because they’ve had good players and coaches — not because Cuban talked or didn’t talk. Now, I don’t think any good ever comes from consistently criticizing officials, but he hasn’t done that in a couple of years. The Mavs won because Dirk Nowitzki was phenomenal and Jason Terry was even better in the last two games. The best thing Jerry learned from Mark is that he needs more players who play big in big games.