DeMarcus Ware Shares His Knowledge with Young Cowboys Defensive Players During OTAs
DeMarcus Ware, the Cowboys’ all-time sack leader, was on the field for OTAs at The Star on Wednesday, June 6th. Ware enjoys teaching the newest generation of pass rushers some of the secrets of his success. But he also notes that offseason practices have changed since he was drafted by the Cowboys in the 1st round of the 2005 NFL Draft. Nowadays, offseason OTAs and Minicamps are non-contact.
“These types of practices are mental,” explains Ware. “You know there are not going to be physical, padded practices where you are bruised and battered. The mental part is how you’re going to put yourself ahead of all the other guys. How many mistakes are you going to make? You have to make sure you’re sharp. And OTAs are about effort.
“And then later when you put those pads on during Training Camp, that’s when you separate the men from the boys. You take what you learned mentally, and then you have to be aggressive and apply what you learned and add the physical aspect to be effective.”
Ware says that the mental part was the hardest adjustment when he made the transition from college to pros. Then, as he was making progress in the playbook and technique, it was time to go against the veterans.
“When I first came in 2005 at Rookie Camp, I’m just killing all those guys, the other rookies. And then all of a sudden, later with the veterans, I see Larry Allen come in. There were Flozell Adams and Marc Colombo and the list goes on. I’m thinking, ‘Are these guys actually playing on the football team?’ They walk with their gimps and limps and they look slow, but when they put their football pads on, I see they are men. They are real men. That’s when maturity comes into play and you face a new challenge. So, you take all you have learned up to that point and try to keep up with the veterans.”
Ware says that there is plenty of work to accomplish during non-contact OTAs and minicamp, beyond technique and the playbook. This is the time of year when the pass rushers can learn to work together and play different spots along the line to add versatility to the rotation.
“You have to be able to rush the passer together and be of one accord, then the offense can’t just chip on one player. They can’t just key on you because you can move around, tackle or nose or left end or right end. That’s when the defensive guys start having fun.”
When Ware was in the midst of his 7 Pro Bowl seasons as a Cowboy, he benefitted from having a very good teammate as a complimentary pass rusher: Anthony Spencer. Ware and Spencer were book-end pass rushers, not to mention Jay Ratliff at defensive tackle getting a good push up-the-middle.
The question for the coming Cowboys’ 2018 season is whether or not a player on the current roster can step-up and be a complementary player to DeMarcus Lawrence who totaled 14 ½ sacks last year and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl.
Does Ware see anybody on the current roster that can step-up and be the bookend to Lawrence in the way that Spencer and Ware complemented each other?
“They have enough guys here already, from what I’ve seen,” says Ware. “They have linemen as well as linebackers like Jaylon (Smith) that can come off-the-edge. So, I think within the package, they have some versatile guys that can get the job done.”
When asked specifically about Taco Charlton, Ware says he sees improvement in last year’s first-round draft pick who spent his rookie season as a backup player. Charlton totaled 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 15 tackles in 16 games last season.
“With Taco I see maturity, to be honest with you,” notes Ware. “I see him maturing from last year. When you play that first year, you get the ‘wow factor’ of ‘I just entered the NFL!’ Now you see him maturing and sharpening his technique and putting new tools in his tool box to get ready for this season.”
Watching the young Cowboys’ players is Ware’s second favorite spectator sport. His first is watching his 7-year old son, DeMarcus Junior, play ball.
“He’s like a little me,” Ware says with a laugh. “I see him out there playing flag football. I want him to play basketball or baseball so he can have a longer career. But if he wants to play football, he enjoys it. I encourage all kids to get out there and be active, so I let him do it.”