Dallas Cowboys: Aldon Smith

DeMarcus Ware, Jason Witten named to Pro Bowl

December, 26, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- For the second straight year the Cowboys had only two players selected to the Pro Bowl, their fewest in back-to-back years since 2001-02.

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Outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware has been selected for the seventh straight year, and after a one-year hiatus tight end Jason Witten was picked for the eighth time.

Ware was selected as a starter with San Francisco’s Aldon Smith, and Witten was voted as a backup to Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez.

How many Cowboys actually play in the Jan. 27, 2013, game in Honolulu is up for debate because Ware could need surgery on his right shoulder after the season and a couple of players could be added as injury replacements.

The Cowboys do not comment on what players are named as possible alternates.

Last year, Ware and nose tackle Jay Ratliff were named to the Pro Bowl.

Ware leads the Cowboys with 11.5 sacks and is closing on the team’s unofficial sack record of 114 held by Harvey Martin. The franchise’s official all-time sack leader is tied with Randy White with 111 sacks on the unofficial list.

“What an honor and privilege it is to be voted to the Pro Bowl by the fans, coaches and players around the league,” Ware said in a statement released by the team. “I know how difficult it is to make it to the game, and I appreciate the support from everyone. I look forward to not only representing the NFC, but also the entire Dallas Cowboys organization.”

Witten set an NFL record for catches by a tight end in a season with 103 and needs 17 yards for his fourth 1,000-yard season. He needs 12 catches Sunday at Washington to set the franchise’s season record for catches, currently held by Michael Irvin, who had 111 catches in 1995. Witten became the Cowboys’ all-time leading pass catcher Nov. 4 in Atlanta.

The only players in team history with more Pro Bowl selections for the Cowboys are Bob Lilly (11), Larry Allen (10), Mel Renfro (10) and White (nine). Emmitt Smith was also picked to play in eight.

“It is always an honor to get voted, especially when a portion of the vote comes from your peers around the league,” Witten said. “Ihave a lot of respect for this league and the players that make up this league. I know how many great players there are around the NFL, and to be selected is very humbling.”

Dez Bryant missed out on making his first Pro Bowl appearance despite a breakout season. Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, Chicago’s Brandon Marshall, Victor Cruz of the New York Giants and Atlanta’s Julio Jones were named as the four receivers.

Bryant has 88 catches for 1,311 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season and has caught at least one TD pass in his last seven games. He has more catches and yards than Cruz and Jones and more touchdowns than Johnson and Marshall.

Even if he is added to the roster it is unlikely that Bryant would play in the all-star game because he needs surgery on his left index finger when the season ends.

Outside linebacker Anthony Spencer also missed out on a bid, despite a career-high 10 sacks and a team-leading 99 tackles. Ware was joined at the outside linebacker position by Smith and Green Bay’s Clay Matthews.
There is no doubt outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware is one of the best -- if not the best -- defensive players in the game.

But how good is Ware with Anthony Spencer, his fellow outside linebacker?

The pair combined for 71 quarterback pressures and 25.5 sacks last season. How does that stack up against other 3-4 outside linebacker duos?

In Pittsburgh, James Harrison and Lamarr Woodley combined for 33 quarterback pressures and 18 sacks. San Diego's Antwan Barnes and Shaun Phillips combined for 22 quarterback pressures and 14.5 sacks.

Clark Haggans and Sam Acho in Arizona combined for 10 sacks and 13 quarterback pressures.

Now, the stats we used for these players come from the teams themselves, not the NFL. So this is the coaches compiling the stats for the players after watching tape the next day.

From a statistical standpoint, Ware and Spencer rank pretty high. Ware gets all the glory of course, based on his production and value to the team. Spencer gets the criticism from some fans and media for having just six sacks last season and not having a major impact in the defense.

Is Spencer better than Woodley, who had nine sacks last season? Nope. Is Spencer better than San Francisco strong side linebacker Ahmad Brooks? Brooks had seven sacks and 46 quarterback pressures last season and will start alongside Aldon Smith in 2012. Smith, incidentally, had 14 sacks last season. Take Brooks.

While Spencer isn't considered one of the top strong side linebackers in the game -- though Pro Football Focus ranked him 10th among outside linebackers in 2011 -- matching him with Ware gives the Cowboys a strong pass rush along the edges.

Spencer's pass coverage skills are slightly overlooked among some fans because few people want to talk about how a pass rusher covers tight ends and running backs.

It's about putting pressure on the quarterback, and it might be fair to say the Cowboys have two solid ones in Spencer and Ware. You could go for days talking about other outside linebackers in the 3-4 -- the Jets' Jamaal Westerman and Calvin Pace or the Redskins' duo of Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo.

The Cowboys have a good pair of outside linebackers, together.

Is it the best in the league?

You decide.

Final Word: Seattle Seahawks

November, 4, 2011
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Nuggets of knowledge about Week 9:

[+] EnlargeDeMarcus Ware
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesCowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware will be facing a Seattle Seahawks offensive line that has allowed a league-high 28 sacks.
Huge weekend for sack opportunities: The Seattle Seahawks, having allowed a league-high 28 sacks, must contend with the Dallas Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware, who collected four of his 12 last week. The San Francisco 49ers' Aldon Smith and Justin Smith have a combined nine sacks over four games. They now face a Washington Redskins offense that took 10 sacks against Buffalo. The St. Louis Rams, coming off a six-sack game against New Orleans' Drew Brees, now face an Arizona Cardinals offense that allowed six against Baltimore last week.

Marshawn Lynch and the end zone: Getting the ground game going stands as a top priority for the Seahawks over the final nine games of the season. The team expects to have its projected offensive line starting for the second week in a row after not playing together since Week 1. Marshawn Lynch hasn't found much running room, but he does have a rushing touchdown in three consecutive games. He's looking to become the first Seattle runner since Shaun Alexander in 2005 to score one in four consecutive games. The Cowboys allowed 239 yards rushing to Philadelphia last week after entering the game allowing a league-low 69.7 yards per game.