- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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OXNARD, Calif. -- Anthony Spencer ranks among the top 3-4 outside linebackers in a lot of statistical categories. Just not the one that matters most.
The 74 tackles, eight tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and 31 quarterback pressures Spencer had last season support head coach Jason Garrett’s claim that the five-year veteran is a “darn good football player.” However, it’s hard to get over the fact that Spencer has never had more than six sacks in a season, a total that would be a good month for DeMarcus Ware.
“Don’t get me wrong, those are important,” Garrett said. “But there are different ways that you can show up, and Anthony is a guy that shows up in a lot of different ways.”
That’s all well and good, but for the Cowboys to have the success they want and for Spencer to get the lucrative, long-term contract he wants, Spencer’s sack total needs to soar this season.
Not that Spencer seems to be sweating over the subject.
“I’m not really going to change too much of what I’ve been doing,” said Spencer, who has 21.5 sacks in 76 career games. “I’m just going to keep doing the things I’ve been doing and try to get better at the pass rush. When I get the opportunities, I’ve just got to try to capitalize on them.”
There is no reason Spencer, who had an eight-sack, eight-game run including the playoffs in 2009, shouldn’t be able to hit double digits.
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is determined to use Spencer as a pass rusher more often, but that’s always been a flimsy excuse. It’s not like Spencer was dropping into coverage in the Cowboys’ nickel-and-dime packages. There have been a lot of pass-rushers over the years who racked up double-digit sack totals playing almost solely in those packages.
The Cowboys’ corner upgrades should benefit Spencer as much as anyone. If a quarterback has to hold the ball a little longer, at least a handful of what had been one-step-away plays for Spencer should turn into getting-the-job-done deals.
“At some point,” Garrett said, “he’s got to go make some sacks.”
That point is this season, if Spencer wants to get paid big and if the Cowboys want to have playoff success.