Irreplaceable?

Who is the Cowboys' most indispensable player?

  •  
    9%
  •  
    4%
  •  
    55%
  •  
    2%
  •  
    30%

(Total votes: 3,596)

DEMARCUS WARE
JASON WITTEN

NO D-WARE? BEWARE

Watkins By Calvin Watkins
ESPNDallas.com
Archive

This isn't anything against Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Dez Bryant, Jay Ratliff and maybe even Brandon Carr.

But the most valuable Cowboy, and only player the team can't afford to lose, is DeMarcus Ware.

It's not even close.

Opposing offenses double-team him. Some teams send a tackle and a tight end. Some even send a tackle and guard.

It's nothing personal, mind you, it's just business.

Ware is a dangerous man.

He makes so many plays when faced one-on-one in the pass rush. Run the ball away from him, and Ware has the speed to cut across the line of scrimmage to make the backside tackle. There should be more plays available for guys like Anthony Spencer when Ware is taken out of plays with double-teams.

Now, when Ware does encounter single coverage, it's not guaranteed he'll get to the quarterback. But when he does, it doesn't matter who he's chasing.

Of Ware's 99.5 career sacks, 10.5 have come against Eli Manning. He has also sacked Michael Vick 6.5 times.

His performance against the NFC East is just as dominating as it is against the rest of the league. Ware has compiled 37 sacks against the NFC East.

That's what you do when you're paid the amount of money he's paid. You make an impact, regardless of the competition.

Take into account the 15.5 sacks he's got against the Eagles, the 11 against the Redskins and the 10.5 vs. the Giants.

Against elite teams New England, New Orleans and Green Bay, Ware has a total of 11 sacks. Yes, that's against Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers for the most part.

Like we said earlier, this isn't personal against the other Cowboys players, but consider that when NFL players vote for the Pro Bowl and for that NFL Network Top 100 list, Ware is almost always the highest-ranked Cowboy.

He's supposed to be.

When Ware doesn't play, offenses are happy.

Nobody is scared of Spencer's rush off the edge. Of course, Ratliff is dangerous and the rising Jason Hatcher as well, but tackles and tight ends are not putting their efforts on Spencer. The tackles and tight ends put their focus on Ware.

His stature in the league makes it so.

He deserves the respect given to him around the league.

Last year, New England coach Bill Belichick compared Ware to former New York Giants great and Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor.

Is any other current Cowboy compared to a Hall of Famer?

Didn't think so.

COWBOYS WOULD BE WOEFUL WITHOUT WITTEN

Taylor By Jean-Jacques Taylor
ESPNDallas.com
Archive

There's a chance the Cowboys will open the season without tight end Jason Witten, their most indispensable player.

If quarterback is the most important position on the field, then it stands to reason that the quarterback's favorite target -- his security blanket, if you will -- is the team's most important player.

Witten is that important to Tony Romo's success. And the Cowboys' offense.

All you have to do is look at the numbers. On third down in the past four seasons, Romo has completed 102 of 144 passes for 1,061 yards and nine touchdowns to Witten.

We all know that's the money down that determines whether the offense keeps the ball or gives it up. Witten is the team leader in each of those categories during that span.

When Patriots coach Bill Belichick devises a game plan to stifle the Cowboys' offense, he always starts with Witten. That's the guy Belichick double-teams because he knows Witten is the epicenter of the offense.

Last season, he caught four passes for 48 yards against New England. Miles Austin and Dez Bryant were targeted a combined 18 times, and the Cowboys managed just 16 points.

See what happens when you make Witten anything less than the first option in the passing game? He's the fastball. When Witten is involved early in games, then the rest of the passing game flows naturally.

Witten is the guy Romo looks for on third down and in critical situations because he knows the 6-foot-5, 265-pound tight end is always going to be where he's supposed to be when he's supposed to be there.

He's the guy who keeps drives alive -- 55.7 percent of his receptions over the past four seasons have gone for first downs.

More important, Witten's presence opens up the offense for Austin and Bryant because defenses must pay so much attention to him.

But he's not just a receiving tight end. He's a committed blocker and a key part of the Cowboys' running game.

A dual threat who inspires confidence in the quarterback is a difficult combination to beat. It's the reason why Witten is the team's most indispensable player.

And if he doesn't play Sept. 5 against the New York Giants, you'll understand why.

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