Another day, another moronic decision by the Dallas Cowboys‘ brass. The domino effect of Rob Ryan‘s firing and the Cowboys’ hiring of Monte Kiffin along with the switch to the 4-3 defense has completely doomed the team defensively for the foreseeable future. Specifically, the decision to move Anthony Spencer from outside linebacker to defensive end is arguably the dumbest thing Dallas has done in recent memory, and that’s saying something.
So why is the decision to move Spencer to defensive end not a good one? Well for starters, he’s too small to play end in the NFL. Yes, I know he played that position in college, but he’s a natural born 3-4 outside linebacker. In a 4-3 defensive scheme, his skill set is way more suited to that same position than defensive end.
Spencer and DeMarcus Ware may be roughly the same size, but Ware is much stronger and a better pass rusher. On the flip side, Spencer is way better in pass coverage and at stopping the run with a heavy emphasis on the latter. Ware is ideal for end because that’s what he played in college and he’s best at rushing the passer, so making that his only responsibility is terrific for him. Spencer? Not so much.
This past season was easily Spencer’s best as a pro, but he still proved that he’s just as (if not more) valuable as a pass defender and run stopper than he is as a pass rusher. Granted, the Cowboys need help at the end spot opposite Ware, but Spencer would be much better suited at outside linebacker opposite Bruce Carter. See? This is one of those unnecessary sticky situations in which the Cowboys put themselves. They’re going to end up starting Spencer at end because there’s no one else to put there, if nothing else. If Dallas had just kept Ryan and the 3-4 scheme, this wouldn’t be an issue.
Both Alex Albright and Orie Lemon are more than capable of handling the other outside linebacker spot opposite Carter, so that should be the route the Cowboys take if Spencer does indeed start at end. It will be very interesting to see what happens to Kyle Wilber, how is almost strictly suited for the 4-3 scheme and nothing else.
Call me crazy, but I don’t think it’s out of the question for 2012 third-round pick Tyrone Crawford to drop 15-20 pounds and play effectively at end in the 4-3 scheme. He’s slightly undersized as a 3-4 end, so taking away bulk and adding a spot of quickness might make him a dynamite pass rusher for Dallas in this new system. Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett and Kiffin aren’t nearly smart enough to figure that out, though, so don’t hold your breath.
If Spencer does end up starting at end, it will be very interesting to see how the Cowboys approach his contract situation. If he doesn’t want to play end, then he’s not going to sign an extension if offered one. Why the Cowboys franchise tagged him again after the switch to 4-3 would be baffling if it was any other team, but a dumb move like that (financially and from a personnel perspective) is right up the Cowboys’ alley. What else is new, right?