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Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Spencer/Ware NFL's best OLB pair?

By Tim MacMahon

SAN ANTONIO – DeMarcus Ware distances from talk about whether he’s the NFL’s most dominant outside linebacker. He’s much more willing to discuss the Dallas duo.

Do Ware and Anthony Spencer form the league’s best outside linebacker tandem?

“That’s what we want to be,” Ware said. “We talk about it all the time.”

Coach Wade Phillips believes Spencer and Ware already are the league’s best pair. Pittsburgh’s LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison (combined for 23.5 sacks last season for the league’s third-ranked rushing defense) present a pretty strong case, but Spencer’s development puts the Dallas duo among the elite.

Ware is a perennial All-Pro whose dominance as a pass-rusher (56.5) overshadows his excellence against the run. Yet Spencer might have been the better player down the stretch last season.

Spencer, who tight end Jason Witten says is the toughest guy he has to block, has always been a beast against the run. The Dallas defense became dominant last season when he flipped the switch as a pass-rusher. He got pressure throughout the season but didn’t get a sack in the first 10 weeks. He broke the seal with a two-sack Thanksgiving performance and racked up eight sacks in the last eight games, including the playoffs.

The standard has been set for Spencer, whose confidence has carried over from his late-season emergence. Phillips compares Spencer to a man he might meet next week in Canton, Hall of Fame inductee Rickey Jackson

“I don’t see a lot of difference as far as how he plays that position,” said Phillips, Jackson’s first NFL position coach.

Ware is well on his way to a yellow blazer. Phillips, a pretty good authority on 3-4 outside linebackers, sees that kind of potential for Spencer.