DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer a top duo?

June, 27, 2012
6/27/12
2:49
PM ET
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.
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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