Thursday, October 08, 2009

NBCDFW Alper: If DeMarcus Ware Can't Get Right This Week, He May Never Get Right

BY Josh Alper

DeMarcus Ware should send Tony Romo and Jason Garrett a fruit basket to enjoy at the next offensive film session. The struggles of the quarterback and his guru have dominated the headlines for the Cowboys this season, which has made it a lot easier for people to ignore the fact that Ware has been playing nowhere near the level expected of him.

Through four games, Ware has added 16 tackles, a forced fumble and a big, fat zero in the sacks column to the Cowboys defense. More damning than any number is the fact that Ware has rarely threatend the quarterback, regardless of the result. There are plenty of ways to explain that away so that Ware doesn't look so bad. Teams load up on stopping him, which, theoreticall, opens rush lanes for other defenders. The Cowboys only have six sacks thus far, though. That could be seen as an indictment of Ware's teammates, notably Anthony Spencer, or it could be seen as offenses paying less attention to Ware and concentrating on stopping the Cowboys defense as a whole.

The answer to that question isn't clear at this point. What's clear through four games is that the Cowboys defense isn't as good as the one that took the field in 2008. As the best player on the defense, the lion's share of the blame, fair or not, is going to fall on Ware. Luckily, the schedule makers have given him a chance to change the story on Sunday.

The Chiefs have shuffled all kinds of players across their offensive line through the summer and fall, but continually come up with the same result. They can't block anyone well enough or long enough to keep Matt Cassel upright, something that the Ware of old would exploit for enough sacks, hurries and hits to take home the Defensive Player of the Week Award. This year's Ware has to do the same thing, because the Cowboys need him to be the disruptive force of the past to maximize their potential as a team.

A big game on Sunday, and for the 11 that follow, is crucial for Ware personally as well. He's still looking for a long-term contract and if he keeps on looking like a player who can't change games then he isn't going to get one. If he doesn't look like that player on Sunday, frankly, it's going to be very hard for him to show that he's consistently able to look like that player against teams that are actually competent up front.