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Monday, April 4, 2011
Breaking down the LBs: Cowboys

By Matt Williamson

Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson examines the linebackers of each NFC East team. Today: Dallas Cowboys.

There is actually a big drop-off after the Cowboys with my linebacker rankings in the NFC East. They are the clear No. 1 choice here. And DeMarcus Ware is the clear No. 1 one linebacker in the division -- and maybe in all of football. The NFL sack leader in 2010, Ware has become remarkably consistent. Ware is a true super star.

Anthony Spencer -- like many Cowboys players -- was better in 2009 than last season. But I don’t have a lot of worries about Spencer as a complementary player to Ware going forward, and he is a very good defender in the run game. Expect a rebound season from Spencer.

The interior starters last year were Keith Brooking and Bradie James. James’ job looks to be safe -- especially on early downs, where he thrives versus the run. But I expect Sean Lee to pass Brooking in no time. In fact, I selected Lee for my Soon To Be Stars series. Brooking has declined noticeably, while Lee is very much on the rise. But the emergence of Lee as a starter could prolong Brooking’s career and enable him to maximize his snaps.

Brandon Williams and Victor Butler both have ability, but Williams has been disappointing. Meanwhile, Butler is intriguing and has really showed up in limited viewings as an edge pass-rusher. Spencer might need to look over his shoulder a little, and maybe new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will figure out a way to get all three pass-rushers on the field in sub packages.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.