Dallas Cowboys' Quarter-Season Grades: DeMarcus Ware and the Front 7

Jonathan Bales@thecowboystimesAnalyst IOctober 10, 2011

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11:  D'Brickashaw Ferguson #60 of the New York Jets talks with DeMarcus Ware #94 of the Dallas Cowboys after the Jets won their game won 27-24 during their NFL Season Opening Game at MetLife Stadium on September 11, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Part I of my Quarter-Season Grades dealt with the offensive line.  Today’s article is in reference to a Cowboys’ front seven which has been allowed to freelance quite a bit more this season than last.  Let’s take a look at how it has worked out thus far. . .

Quarter-Season Review: Defensive Line

  • Jay Ratliff

Last year, Ratliff totaled 26 pressures despite sacking the quarterback just four times.  This season, he is on pace for the same four sacks, but 10 less pressures.  He’s also tallied only six tackles.  Rob Ryan’s scheme shouldn’t hurt Ratliff, so these numbers are a little concerning.

  • Sean Lissemore

In 52 snaps, Lissemore has just two less tackles than Ratliff.  His pressure rate isn’t outstanding (two), but he hasn’t made any critical errors either.  The best sign is that Lissemore is improving.

  • Kenyon Coleman

Coleman’s three pressures already topped the two from Marcus Spears in 2010.  Of course, this is a new year with a new coordinator, and Spears already has four pressures in 2011.  When you combine Coleman’s lack of pass rush with his six tackles, you get a pedestrian start for the veteran.

  • Jason Hatcher

The numbers on Hatcher are a great example of why you cannot always trust your memory when it relates to grading players.  Prior to looking at the statistics, I thought Hatcher was having a super pass-rushing season.  My memory was likely skewed by the 49ers game in which Hatcher recorded two sacks.  In reality, Hatcher has only one pressure to go along with those two sacks.  His seven tackles is solid for a defensive end, though, and he’s played the run quite well.

  • Marcus Spears

Four tackles, four pressures, no sacks.  If Spears isn’t stuffing the run, he isn’t of much use.

Quarter-Season Review: Linebackers

Outside Linebackers

With a league-leading 17 pressures, five sacks, and three quarterback hits, Ware is on pace for one of his biggest seasons to date.  Actually, he is getting a pressure on 12.8% percent of his rushes—up from 11.0 percent in 2010.

  • Anthony Spencer

Spencer is proof that sack totals determine perception.  In reality, Spencer is displaying the exact same performance as in 2010–a solid, but not great season in which the majority of analysts crucified him.  Now that Spencer is on pace for 12 sacks, he’s finally “turning the corner,” right?  Not really, since his seven pressures give him a 6.7 percent pressure rate which is nearly identical to his 6.8 percent rate from last season.  Spencer is also on pace for 48 tackles—four less than in 2010.

  • Victor Butler

I really thought Butler would see a significant increase in snaps this season, but that doesn’t appear as though it will be the case.  With only 48 snaps thus far, Butler is on pace to play just a handful more than in 2010.  Despite his lack of playing time, Butler has put up a sack and three pressures.  He’s only rushed the passer 34 times, so his three pressures mean he is reaching the quarterback 8.8 percent of the time.  He doesn’t have any tackles, but he’s also defended the run in just seven plays.

Inside Linebackers

  • Sean Lee

We don’t need numbers to tell us that Sean Lee has been the Cowboys’ second-best player on defense (and perhaps the team) this season.  His 26 tackles leads the team by far, and he’s missed just two of them (7.1 percent missed tackle rate).  Lee even has three pressures, two interceptions and two passes defended.  If there is an area of his game that must improve, it is actually pass coverage.  At a certain point, though, you have to throw out his “awkwardness” in coverage because he just keeps making plays.

  • Bradie James

You probably noticed James’ decreased snap count, but did you realize he has played just one more snap than Keith Brooking?  James is a liability in coverage, cannot effectively rush the passer, and has just five tackles.  His days in Dallas are coming to an end.

  • Keith Brooking

One tackle in 93 snaps.


A few notes before looking at my grades:

  • The run defense and pass rush grades are weighted evenly for the defensive linemen: weighted 3:2 in favor of the pass rush for the outside linebackers, and weighted 3:2 in favor of run defense for all the linebackers.
  • Coverage is normally a component of the outside linebacker grades, but there haven’t been enough snaps for the sample size of plays to be great enough to draw conclusions.  DeMarcus Ware has been in coverage on just 25 snaps, for example.

Defensive Line

Jay Ratliff

  • Pass Rush: B-
  • Run Defense: B+

Overall: 85.0 (B)

Sean Lissemore

  • Pass Rush: C-
  • Run Defense: B-

Overall: 75.0 (C)

Kenyon Coleman

  • Pass Rush: D+
  • Run Defense: C+

Overall: 75.0 (C)

Jason Hatcher

  • Pass Rush: C+
  • Run Defense: B+

Overall: 85.0 (B)

Marcus Spears

  • Pass Rush: D+
  • Run Defense: C

Overall: 72.5 (C)

Outside Linebackers

DeMarcus Ware

  • Pass Rush: A
  • Run Defense: B+

Overall: 93.0 (A)

Anthony Spencer

  • Pass Rush: B-
  • Run Defense: B-

Overall: 80.0 (B-)

Victor Butler

  • Pass Rush: B
  • Run Defense: C

Overall: 81.0 (B-)

Inside Linebackers

Sean Lee

  • Run Defense: A
  • Pass Defense: B-

Overall: 89.0 (B+)

Bradie James

  • Run Defense: D+
  • Pass Defense: D

Overall: 68.0 (D)

Keith Brooking

  • Run Defense: F
  • Pass Defense: C+

Overall: 65.0 (D)

Dallas Cowboys Times is on Twitter.

Subscribe to our free e-mail updates.