Earlier in the year I felt there was no way possible the Cowboys would resign Anthony Spencer. He was 30 years old and just coming off of micro-fracture surgery and honestly, I didn’t feel he would play anywhere anytime soon.
The team proved me wrong and signed Spencer to a one year deal. Well, if he plays we wouldn’t see him until the end of the season. At least that’s what I thought.
Turns out I could be wrong again. Anthony Spencer not only thinks he’ll return before the midway point of the season, he believes he will return before the start of the season.
“I hope so. I hope to be back before the first game,” Spencer said. “I hope some time around there. It’s hard to say now. We’ve got time and not trying to rush things.”
The defensive end position was a question mark before the season and that became an even bigger question when rookie DeMarcus Lawrence went down in the first week of training camp. But if Spencer can come back, even in a reserved role, this would give the defensive line a big boost.
I wasn’t always a big fan of Anthony Spencer. I didn’t think he was that good of a player. But that was before I started looking at the big picture.
I was guilty of just looking at his sack numbers and until his contract season in 2012, he had never posted double-digit sacks. How convenient right? But there was something that I wasn’t looking at, even though it should have been really obvious.
Spencer had become the best all-around player on this defense in the last four seasons. Yes, DeMarcus Ware was putting up the sack numbers, and Spencer was known more for almost getting the sacks, hence the nick name Almost Anthony. But one factor people seemed to overlook was what Spencer did do.
Spencer was constantly dropping into coverage while playing the left outside linebacker position; he was able to rush but not all game like the other players on the line of scrimmage. His job was to cover the running backs and tight ends, then rush the QB.
But where Spencer excelled was stopping the run. There wasn’t a better run-stopper on the team. Not DeMarcus Ware, not Jason Hatcher, not anybody. And when he was out last season, this team missed him dearly and it showed.
The defense was gashed in every way possible last season and Spencer not being in the lineup was one of the many reasons why this defense allowed historic type numbers. However, that was last season. No point harping on the past. So let’s take a look at what Spencer could do for the defensive line this season when he returns.
First and foremost, he will be a tremendous help stopping the opposing teams run game. As I mentioned earlier, Spencer was the best run defender on this team as an outside linebacker, and some argue he was the best run defender as an outside linebacker in the entire league.
Spencer will also help out in the pass rush.
Yes I know, he was constantly almost getting sacks in what seems like his entire career in Dallas. But think about what he could do when all the energy and focus is on one thing, and that’s getting to the QB. No more dropping into coverage chasing speedy running backs and lumbering tight ends who have the speed of some wide receivers. Those days are over; Spencer can concentrate on doing the one thing he did so well as defensive end at Purdue that made him a first round draft choice.
Something else Spencer brings to this defensive line that could be lacking – leadership. He will be the guy the rest of the defensive line will look up to, and that’s especially important when you have young defensive lineman that are going to see plenty of playing time. So what Spencer brings to the table will help this defense improve in a big way.
When It comes to injuries, micro-fracture surgery today is what an ACL tear was to a player back in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. Most would end a career, some would come back but never be the player they were, but then some would be beat the odds and pick up where they left off.
Seeing how far Spencer has come since having the micro-fracture surgery last fall, I wouldn’t bet against him beating odds and picking up where he left off.