Anthony Spencer has this vision.
Of DeMarcus Ware.
Being even better than he is now.
It sounds scary. Spencer says it is possible. Ware, the seven-time Pro Bowl outside-linebacker-turned-defensive-end in the Dallas Cowboys’ new 4-3 defense, could become an even better player than he is now because of the new role he is playing and the coaching he is getting from respected NFL defensive line coach Rod Marinelli.
“He definitely harps on the little things,” Spencer said. “D-Ware’s already a great player, no doubt. But just working on those little things and getting sharper — just imagine D-Ware becoming a better player than he already is.
“And I believe that’s going to happen.”
Ware has another factor on his side: health.
He entered this training camp at full strength, unlike the last half of last season where seemingly week by week he began to wear down and tear down. He finished the year unable to lift his right arm. In terms of production, it was one of his three worst seasons. He had only 11.5 sacks after posting 19.5 the previous year and 15.5 the year before that. The four-time All-Pro also had his fewest quarterback pressures in four years, his fewest tackles for loss in three years and no pass breakups for the first time since he was a rookie.
It wasn’t much of a year to think about, and Ware doesn’t want to.
“Playing at least eight games where you’re not at least totally healthy, your mind sort of has to take over,” he said. “Your body is not doing what your mind is telling it to do. And now, being able to do everything — go out and play, feel whole again — feels really good.”
Ware sat out some of training camp last year because of a hamstring problem.
If he can stay healthy and keep the momentum into the regular season, the Cowboys’ transition to the 4-3 is bound to be more successful.
“DeMarcus Ware is a great football player,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We need the best version of DeMarcus Ware.”
That includes not only the player, but the person.
Middle linebacker Sean Lee said Ware’s presence as a person affects the defense favorably.
“He always has energy. He’s always out on the field loud, always excited, always getting the guys going,” Lee said. “So just to have that back — for me, I was out — and just to be around the guys again, the guys like DeMarcus, the guys on the D-line, the guys on the back end, it’s a ton of fun to be back playing football.”
The move to the 4-3 might be reason alone to make Ware smile. In the scheme, he is going to be a straight pass-rusher. In the 3-4, he also had pass-coverage responsibilities.
“Now you’re just putting your hand down in the dirt, reading formations. You’re pass rushing 90 percent, actually 99 — I would say 94 percent of the time,” he said, laughing at his joke.
But there’s no kidding about the results so far. For two days, Ware has practiced at full speed and dominated. He has ripped past tackle Tyron Smith in the first-team 11-on-11s. It might be no accident that the defense has looked strong against the offense in the first days of camp.
“DeMarcus’ full speed is probably the fastest I’ve ever seen,” Lee said. “To see him back again moving the way he was and feeling healthy, that’s just an awesome sight to see because of how athletic and how talented he is.
“It’s fun to see him back.”
And maybe better than ever. Scary. Possible.