I'm now going to do something that our defense had some issues with this year, tackle another position in my positional breakdown of the current roster. Yeah, cheap shot, but between Jenkins watching Ward run by and everyone missing McClain and McGahee, it kind of fits. Here's the linebackers.
DeMarcus Ware –
A great overall athlete, big surprise here.
The guy has an outstanding work ethic and drive. He gets to the ball quickly, and is good at deciding where a play is going.
He's versatile, quick, strong, and doesn't rely on others to allow him a chance, he makes plays where others wouldn't.
By far the only must have on this team, or any team.
Brady James –
The soft-spoken leader of this defensive unit, he's been a steady contributor and a reliable linebacker. Sometimes he shows us why he gets left out of the Pro Bowl, but the 2008 season was certainly his best year. He deserved the vote, and he agreed, but he did publicly express his feelings about not making the all star team, and that isn't okay.
Still, his play on the field overcomes the very few and minor issues that he brings to the team. An obvious keeper.
Zach Thomas –
Since he was first drafted years ago, I've never really seen why he is such a big deal. And when we signed him last year I was a bit skeptical because of his age and my personal beliefs of him. This year he showed me two things, the first is that he is a solid player that could be a starter on just about any team, and the second is that my first impressions of him were right.
He was brought in to be an experienced veteran to help guide younger players, and provide some balance beside Bradie James. He was what we thought he was, he just didn't make as big of an impact as most hoped, and many dreamed.
After the Philly game, as we all know by now, he expressed his feelings over how he fit into this defense, and he did it publicly. Yeah, he did change his tune a little in the following days, but the message had already been delivered.
Thanks to some favorable conditions in his contract, he was able to void the remaining three years of his deal down to one. I don't know if that's optional and he has to take it or if it's a done deal already. In either case, I don't see him passing on a way out of a defense that he thinks he doesn't fit into when it means the next four years will be here, unless he retires. I also don't see the Cowboys signing him to another deal. He's too old for a multi-year deal, and the Cowboys could better use the money on a one year deal to bring in some solid talent through either free agency or the draft.
I don't expect to see Zach back next year.
Greg Ellis –
I still think Greg Ellis can play the game, and he seemed to get his second wind with the switch from end to OLB. I think the current system works; the rotation between he and Anthony Spencer is complimenting to his age and keeps him fresh as a solid role player.
I expect to see him back next year, and I expect the rotation schedule to change a little more in favor of the young and blossoming Spencer.
I don't expect Ellis to be graceful about though. As has been the case each off-season for a while now, Ellis often has complaints about his role on the team, in spite of career performances in this current system. What will be will be, I guess. He already got the money, so he doesn't have a lot left to gripe about, unless he wants to play more like Ware does.
Anthony Spencer –
He's the most recent player to have a run in with the law, but I doubt anyone is holding that against him.
This year, his first being healthy all year, he showed us why he takes snaps away from the trusted veteran Ellis. What more can you say about him? He's got upside, he's quick, and he's bright, most of the time.He'll be around for a few more years, I suspect.
Kevin Burnett –
I know that perceptions be misleading, especially in football, but as I write this, I find it hard to get the image of his blunder in the Philly game out of my head. He's shown us that he can play; now he needs to work on his confidence and awareness a little. Being caught out of position isn't good, especially not when you get as few reps as he does in a game.
But on the flip side, he isn't a bad player, and an extra year, an extra off-season, should be all he needs to hone in on the skills he sometimes misfires on. I expect to see him back next year; Jerry will pay to keep him because of depth and continuity at the position. Thomas leaving will only concrete the need for him. I also expect him to play at a higher level next year than he has thus far, and I'm a little excited to see him do it.
Bobby Carpenter –
I want to say, “this poor guy.” He was drafted with high expectations and he hasn't lived up to them. But unlike most players who do that, he hasn't been the reason for his lack of success. Constantly moving him from one position to another, and not really offering him any hope of earning a starting job have hindered his progress as far as I'm concerned.
As many fans are saying right now, and have been saying for a while, it's high time he got a real chance to compete for a bigger role on defense. I expect this to be his year due to the depth concerns in the middle. I just hope he can finally show his first round talent on more than just a draft board.
Justin Rogers –
Did this guy even play? Hate to admit it, but I never once paid any attention to him, so I'll let someone else fill in his spot in the comments. Fair enough.
Carlos Polk –
Signed more out of concerns for special teams, he began to get some time on the defense through promising play. He's still got some things to work on, and will probably never be a great player for us, but he's got enough to make him valuable on special teams. His biggest problem is being positioned behind Ware on the depth chart, same for Rogers too.
Being one of Wade's guys though, he'll be back next year, and I'm not really upset about it.
Steve Octavien –
Here's another one that hasn't done enough to really give anyone an impression of what he can do. That usually means he's in development and will be back next year for continued grooming.
That's my take on things. What do you all think?