32 Questions in 32 Days: Dallas Cowboys

DeMarcus Ware
DeMarcus Ware
Oct 1 2012 Arlington TX USA Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware 94 in action against the Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys Stadium Matthew Emmons USA TODAY Sports

As we count down to the NFL season, Sports Jerks will be bringing you 32 questions in 32 days. Each day, we’ll feature one of the most important questions for a different NFL team heading into the opening weekend of the league.

Today’s feature team and question?

The Dallas Cowboys – Will DeMarcus Ware’s position change help or hurt?

Come on, admit it – you figured this would be a question about quarterback Tony Romo, right? The oft-criticized quarterback could have been the focus here, but an even more important question is about the Cowboys’ defensive star, DeMarcus Ware.

Ware played defensive end at Troy while in college, but has played linebacker in the NFL with the Cowboys since being drafted in the first round back in 2005. Dallas moved Ware to linebacker and it was clearly the right thing to do.

Since playing in the NFL, Ware has been one of the league’s top defensive players and perhaps its best pass rusher. Over his first eight seasons, Ware has dominated opposing defensive lines and found ways to get to the quarterback despite teams preparing for him. Ware has put together one of the most dominant five-year stretches in NFL history with 80 sacks from 2007 – 2011. It’s not as if he is slowing down much, either. Last season, Ware had 11 ½ sacks and five forced fumbles to go along with his 56 tackles.

The Cowboys’ move of Ware to linebacker has paid off, but now Dallas is shaking things up a bit.

New defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin was hired and is instilling the 4-3 defense. With the move, Dallas was in need of another defensive lineman and Ware has been chosen for the job and moved to defensive end. Obviously, Ware will be able to produce no matter his position. He played at end in college and it isn’t going to be an entirely new thing for him. Still, the question should be asked – is it the right move?

Over the short term, not really.

This is the classic example of taking something that’s been incredibly successful and risking a colossal screw-up. Ware hasn’t only been good at linebacker, he’s been the best. No one has played outside linebacker better than him in the past eight seasons and the move is a questionable one at best. Would a team take a highly successful pitcher and put him in the outfield just because he played there in college? Of course not – you go out and bring in an outfielder.

That’s an extreme example, obviously, and players change positions all the time. Rarely, however, is the best at his craft forced to do it and the move is a sizable gamble for the Cowboys.

One positive is that Ware feels it will extend his career. Linebackers are forced to play both the pass and the run and not dropping back into coverage could make things easier for Ware. However, the constant contact with defensive linemen and not having the ability to gain a running start on pass rushes could also make things more difficult. Ware may feel it will extend his career, but the constant bruising at the line could also shorten it.

Also, keep in mind that Ware has actually had more success at rushing the quarterback in the pros than he did at college at defensive end. At Troy, Ware accumulated approximately .6 sacks per contest. That’s a great number, but in the NFL, he has been even better, averaging nearly a sack a game.

He will contribute no matter where he plays, but this isn’t a move that’s for the better. Position changes are a necessary part of the game but moving the future Hall of Famer in this instance isn’t the right thing to do.

author avatar
Anson Whaley
Anson Whaley is a freelance writer with more than 16 years of experience. He is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and a current member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA). Mr. Whaley has also been a credentialed member of the media for various events. !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+'://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, 'script', 'twitter-wjs');