By Schuyler Dixon
The Associated Press
IRVING, Texas — DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer have much simpler job descriptions in the new Dallas defense: Go get the quarterback.
The pass-rushing ends for the Cowboys’ return to the 4-3 won’t carry out their new marching orders together until training camp starts next month in California, with Ware still recovering from shoulder surgery and Spencer a week removed from hyperextending his left knee in an offseason practice.
Most everyone else hardly missed a snap in four weeks of offseason work that wrapped up Thursday with the final day of a three-day minicamp. They probably have more to learn anyway under new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin with the Cowboys changing schemes after nearly a decade with three linemen and four linebackers.
“Every coverage is new. Every blitz is new,” said the 73-year-old Kiffin, architect of the defense that won a Super Bowl with Tampa Bay in 2003. “It’s all good, but the players have to get it down. But they’re really working hard at it. Can’t ask more than that.”
Ware and Spencer will spend less time thinking and more time attacking in Kiffin’s system. Under Rob Ryan, who was fired after two seasons, they were linebackers just as likely to be chasing receivers and tight ends as they were quarterbacks.
Now, Ware and Spencer will generally leave the reading to middle linebacker Sean Lee.
“Half the weight of learning stuff is gone,” said Ware, who is fourth among active players with 111 career sacks and is the first to lead Dallas in each of his first seven seasons. “It’s more technique stuff than anything.”
Lee and Bruce Carter were inside linebackers in Ryan’s scheme. They will still play alongside each other, but will see a lot less of Ware and Spencer unless the linebackers are blitzing.
“I think it’s gone really well,” said Lee, who missed most of last season with a toe injury. “I think they have done a good job of progressively giving us stuff to work on and take to the field. So, if you look at our defensive line and our whole defense, we have played faster and faster each week. And that’s the key for us.”