Commentary

Ware seeking his first sack

Updated: October 29, 2009, 12:04 PM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

IRVING -- DeMarcus Ware has participated in 187 defensive snaps this season.

Ware has no sacks.

The Dallas linebacker led the NFL last season with a career-high 20, but every time he hits the quarterback, he gets nothing. Ware is tied with backup defensive end Jason Hatcher for the team lead in quarterback pressures with six.

Ware is also tied for fifth with 19 total tackles. But sacks are how Ware is supposed to make his money. It's why Ware, in the last year of his contract, is seeking one of the richest paydays in the league for a defensive player.

Ware is an impact player -- his three consecutive Pro Bowl appearances proves that. His lack of sacks is surprising. Dating back to the last regular-season game of 2008, Ware hasn't picked up a sack in the last four games.

That's the longest stretch since his rookie year in 2005, when he went eight games without a sack.

"Yeah, it is frustrating," Ware said Wednesday. "But you got to keep going because the way I feel, you have to get out there and play, and eventually your time will come. I'm not pressing at all. As long as you're getting those W's and you're winning, there's no reason to press when you have good core guys that are going to help you get the job done. That's what it's about."

For most of Monday's game, Ware faced Carolina left tackle Jordan Gross, who contained him in some one-on-one matchups. Ware's lone hit on quarterback Jake Delhomme came when he shed tight end Dante Rosario on a third down in the first quarter.

The Panthers helped Gross some with a tight end, and Delhomme got rid of the ball quickly by throwing to receivers running shorter routes.

At Denver on Sunday, Ware will face left tackle Ryan Clady, who has allowed only half a sack in his two seasons in the league. Clady is more athletic than Gross and has the ability to adjust when Ware rushes up field or tries to move inside. Also, Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton has been sacked only three times this season due to the fact that he's tossed about 19 screen passes and numerous dump-off throws, and the Broncos are running the ball to the tune of a 4.7 average, fourth-best in the league.

"He's been playing pretty good," Ware said of Clady. "Peyton Manning doesn't give up many sacks, either, because he gets the ball off pretty fast. [Denver] is more of that West Coast-style offense and they get the ball off pretty fast. But we have to find a way to get pressure on the quarterback fast, because they're getting the ball off fast with the screens and the little bootlegs and waggles and all that stuff. We just got to get pressure on them quick and make them make bad decisions."

Ware is playing well but could use a little more help from his friends. In the offseason, Dallas released its second-best pass-rusher from 2008 -- outside linebacker Greg Ellis -- to promote Anthony Spencer. Now with Oakland, Ellis has three sacks to Spencer's zero. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff, who picked up his first sack of the season against Carolina, is doing a good job of getting pressure inside.

Having another threat on the pass rush takes pressure off Ware to beat up on tackles and tight ends. Early in games, opposing teams keep six and sometimes seven defenders in to protect, while the Cowboys rush four or five. As teams trail, they spread out the offense, which leads to five or six blockers.

But when the game is in its early stages, Ware has to get going because the Cowboys need him to cause havoc on the field.

"You have to find some way to get in his face," Ware said. "A little bit faster, maybe go up the middle a little bit more because he's right there -- or maybe you have to let him know, I'm coming from this side, so he has only one decision. I don't know."

Calvin Watkins covers the Dallas Cowboys for ESPN Dallas.

Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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