On a team loaded with the concerns, one concern you need not worry about is DeMarcus Ware’s transition to Monte Kiffin’s 4-3 defense. Make no mistake – anytime a successful player makes a positional change this late in their career, it’s a legitimate cause for concern. But in this case, the concern shouldn’t be as dire as you may think.
For Ware’s entire professional career he has played the weak outside linebacker but now at the age of 31 he is being asked to move to the defensive line and play weakside defensive end (WDE). A move like this sounds much bigger than it really is. In the grand scheme this is a fairly minor positional transition. Let’s explain why you needn’t worry…
Ware’s Defensive Assignments
Ware has always been the primary pass-rusher on the Dallas Cowboys. Occasionally he was pushed into coverage but for upward of 90% of the defensive snaps, Ware was focused solely on the pass rush. As a 4-3 defensive end not much will change. In fact, Kiffin’s defenses rarely, if ever, call for the WDE to do anything but attack. He will have occasional run stopping (and Scrape responsibilities against the Read-Option) responsibilities but Kiffin will find a way to set Ware loose.
3-Point Stance Vs. 2-Point Stance
An obvious difference between pass-rushing as an OLB and pass-rushing as a DE is the traditional stance. Ware is accustomed to a 2-point stance and rushing from an upright position on the edge. As a defensive end Ware will be asked to place his hand on the ground and rush from a 3-point stance. A 3-point stance offers better burst and better leverage against the opposing offensive tackle. If anything this change in stance will assist Ware and make him even more explosive than he already is. The change will take a little getting used to but it’s not as difficult as it may seem.
Keep in mind there is no rule that says Ware must line up with his hand on the ground every time to be considered a lineman. Monte Kiffin is known for being very adaptive in his defenses. If he thinks even for a second Ware is inhibited by the 3 point stance he will allow Ware to stand back up from time to time. That’s still probably unlikely since the 3-point stance is such an advantage from the pass-rushing perspective. BUT the 2-point stance has less contact than the 3-point stance, so if Ware begins to wear down and/or get beat up, then maybe a 2-point stance could be sprinkled in this season.
The point is, don’t worry. Ware has plenty of experience at both stances and only stands (no pun intended) to improve by making a full-time transition to the 3-point.
As a 3-4 OLB Ware was allowed to move around and change his attack angle. At times he would line up close to the DE and other times he would line up wide outside from the DE. Different angles can make it difficult for an OT to block. Traditionally a WDE lines up in the 5 technique (outside shoulder of the OT) and rushes from nearly the same spot all the time. Later today we will look deeper into this DE positioning and see how it impacts the pass-rush.
One positioning we will look at this afternoon is the “LEO”. The LEO is typically the weakside defensive end (Ware) who lines up in a very wide technique on passing downs. This will present a huge advantage to DeMarcus Ware when he rushes the passer this season.
Ware will be given the opportunity to rush from different angles. If he’s noticeable more successful rushing as a LEO you will see it more often. If the LEO proves to be more harmful then helpful you’ll see Ware lined up in a more traditional location for a 4-3 DE.
The Return of Anthony Spencer
Perhaps no one thing will help Ware more than the simple return of Anthony Spencer. Spencer will make opposing offenses play the Cowboys much more honestly. In the preseason, teams have stacked everything toward neutralizing DeMarcus Ware. They even avoid running plays to his side. When Spencer returns they won’t be able to cheat to the strong side so blatantly. Spencer isn’t nearly the pass rusher Ware is but he is well respected and will undoubtedly beat you if you underestimate him. Keep in mind this is another contract year for Spencer so he should be playing with that same determination we saw last year.
Hopefully that’s enough reasons why you shouldn’t be worried about Ware’s pass-rushing in 2013. Will he have a career year? Probably not. But 15 sacks certainly isn’t out of the question. 15-17 sacks sound pretty darn good to me. Especially if we can expect 8-10 from Spencer and 5 or more from Jason Hatcher. There are plenty of things to worry about in 2013. DeMarcus Ware should not be one of them.
Tomorrow we will take a deeper look at the LEO pass-rush and how it will substantially improve the already impressive pass-rush here in Dallas. Stay tuned…
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