Last week I did an offseason feature on the Dallas Cowboys, and their top five offensive threats. Now we are changing sides of the ball, and discussing Dallas’ top five defensive players. DeMarco Murray got my number one slot on the offensive end, who will grab those honors on defense? SBRForum.com continues with this series of articles covering Dallas Cowboys, their different angles and the 2012 NFL Odds.
5. Gerald Sensabaugh, Safety
The 28 year-old from Oakland, CA had another good season for the Cowboys, and he gets my nod for number five. Sensabaugh had 75 tackles last season, good for second on the team. He also had two forced and recovered fumbles, along with two interceptions. With the exception of his 5-interception season in 2010, it was his best season as a pro.
The Cowboys drafted Matt Johnson, a safety out of Eastern Washington in the fourth round of the draft. They also moved up to draft Morris Claiborne with the 6th overall pick. Claiborne is of course a corner from LSU. With Sensabaugh and the new additions, the Cowboys should improve from their 23rd ranked pass defense from 2011.
4. Anthony Spencer, Linebacker
Spencer is one of three Dallas linebackers to make my list for the offseason, and Spencer did everything he could to get on my list! Spencer had 66 tackles last season, good for third on the team, but he really made his money last season rushing the passer. Spencer had 6 sacks and four forced fumbles last season.
Along with the other two linebackers I’m about to mention in this article, the Cowboys’ future is bright among their front seven, considering that every guy in the top four of this article play linebacker or defensive line.
3. Sean Lee, Middle Linebacker
The sophomore just continued to improve from his rookie season; Lee played in 15 games last season and led the team in tackles with 105 (71 solo). Although he didn’t have any sacks, he recovered two fumbles and had four interceptions and a touchdown. The Penn State prodigy didn’t have the best statistical season on this list, but his impact and upside lands him third on the list.
This guy is key for the Cowboys in stopping the run. He also has to match up against opposing teams tight ends on occasion, and he does well with it. He utilizes his 6’2 245 pound frame well, and when he reaches his ceiling, he could be a Pro Bowl caliber player (that is if they keep the Pro Bowl).
2. Jay Ratliff, Defensive Tackle
What else can be said about this guy, other then he is one of the best d-tackles in the league. In 2009, he was a 1st Team All Pro, and he is a four-time Pro Bowler. Last season, Ratliff didn’t have his best statistical season in 2011, but he did end the season with 2 sacks and one fumble recovery.
It’s hard for guys on the Cowboys to get sacks, but we’ll get into that with number one. Ratliff is a double-team demanding machine, and a run stopping giant. Between he and Lee, these two are key for the Cowboys defending opposing running backs.
1. DeMarcus Ware, Linebacker
This one should come at no surprise, as Ware had one of the greatest season a Cowboy has ever had last season. He finished with 19.5 sacks; good for second in the NFL last season. Ware also had 58 tackles, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery for Dallas’ defense.
2012 should be no different for Ware, and I expect him to have another stellar season giving quarterbacks nightmares. The Cowboys added five defensive players with their seven draft picks, and their first four selections were on defense. Ware’s sack numbers might go down, but everything else is going to stay the same or go up.