Loss of Anthony Spencer will be jarring

September, 24, 2013
9/24/13
1:34
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Losing Anthony Spencer for the season is jarring for the Dallas Cowboys' defense.

Spencer is their second-best pass-rusher and a force against the run. The Cowboys felt the move from an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme to defensive end in the 4-3 was not a big change for Spencer and he would assimilate just as well as DeMarcus Ware has.

[+] EnlargeAnthony Spencer
AP Photo/James D. SmithAnthony Spencer was the Cowboys' second-best pass-rusher and was also tough against the run.
He had 11 sacks last year and was named to the Pro Bowl. The move to defensive end would only enhance his ability to get to the quarterback.

Now he’s looking at a long rehabilitation and having to wait to show he can do it all over again in 2014.

But the games go on for the Cowboys and there is no easy fix, unless there is a team willing to trade a valuable pass-rushing commodity the way the Cleveland Browns were willing to trade Trent Richardson last week.

For as well as George Selvie has played in the first three games, he is not Anthony Spencer. For as well as the defensive line has played so far, there still has to be some concern that these guys will be able to hold up over the course of a season.

Selvie, who has two sacks, has played 16 games in a season once and was signed only because Tyrone Crawford was lost for the year to a torn Achilles. Nick Hayden was out of football last year and has never started more than 10 games in a season. Kyle Wilber had a sack last week against the St. Louis Rams, but he has not shown he is more than a part-time player. Caesar Rayford was picked up in a trade the first week of the season and was active for the first time last week. They signed David Carter last week for depth. They signed Drake Nevis on Tuesday to hopefully add some size to the interior.

The Cowboys need Ware and Jason Hatcher to continue to carry the day.

A healthy Spencer -- or even a part-time Spencer -- would have kept most of their backups in the roles in which they could be expected to handle. They didn’t expect Hayden to be a starter, but Jay Ratliff’s sports hernia recovery took a lot longer than expected and he’s going to miss at least another three games on the physically unable to perform list. They didn’t really expect Selvie to do this, but now he has to bring it every week.

Defensive line coach Rod Marinelli has worked magic so far with a lot of guys nobody has ever heard of.

If the group continues to play as well as it has, then he will deserve a raise in 2014.

Todd Archer

ESPN Dallas Cowboys reporter

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