Recently DE Jason Hatcher was asked about the on field leaders for the Dallas Cowboys. His answer certainly raised a few eye brows when he made the point that there really isn’t someone stepping up and taking charge especially on defense. Jason’s response,
“Dude. I gotta be honest with you: That’s a good question. That’s a good question. I really don’t know. It’s just another thing we really need … like the Ravens, we don’t have that. We’ve got the talent. We’ve got everything we need. I think we get like a Ray Lewis-type. Everybody buys into him. When Ray Lewis speaks, everybody listens to him. A guy like that. We really don’t got that. I think we definitely need somebody like that.”
When we look back on how the 2011 season unfolded, it would appear that Hatcher makes a very valid point. Time after time we watched the Cowboys defense allow last-minute drives that resulted in touchdowns causing the team to lose some close games that they really could have won. The defensive unit lacked a strong leader to step up and put the team on his back with an attitude that said, “Come on guys let’s get a stop and get off the field right now.”
Without leadership on the field, the tendency is for players to start pointing the finger at each other and participating in the blame game. Good leadership focuses on accountability and making sure you do your own job correctly.
At one point in the week 10 Giants game, Sensabaugh and Newman got into a shoving match right during a Giants drive. VIDEO. Clearly something is wrong here. It led former outstanding Cowboys safety Darren Woodson to say,”I’ll be damned if Terrence Newman ever yelled at me during a game”. Woodson can see that something is wrong here in the leadership department.
Before games we have often watched Brooking yelling and carrying on like a WWF pro wrestler. VIDEO. Is this what Jason is looking for? I doubt it. It is not big on substance and could be provided by Hulk Hogan. It doesn’t appear likely that Brooking will be with the Cowboys next year. So who on this team could step up into the role?
Ultimately it is up to the player and coaches but let’s look at the best candidates on the defense side of the ball.
Ware– Ware has certainly been a very good consistent player that lead the team in sacks last season. He appears to be a solid guy on and off the field. Ware can fill this role but he doesn’t appear to be a very vocal type leader which is OK. He leads with actions. I’m not sure why he isn’t filling the leadership role but at this time he doesn’t appear to be the answer.
James-Bradie james has been a solid leader on and off the field in the past. However he isn’t the player that he once was and he may not be with the Cowboys for much longer. He can fill the leadership role but his time is probably passing on this defense.
Lee– Sean Lee is a linebacker that has provided some much-needed youth and energy for the defense. He has been a leader on the field thru his play and I can easily see him growing into this role in the future. Probably also on the quiet side it would appear. His time to lead may not be here just yet.
Jay Ratliff– If you watch the video of the Sensabaugh/Newman skirmish, there is a guy that steps in to break it up and restore order to the chaos. That player is Nose Tackle Jay Ratliff and I think he may be the best candidate to step up and lead the defense in 2012. He is a Pro Bowler and a consistent veteran on the defense. It is pretty clear that he is respected by teammates and listened to when he speaks.
Jason Hatcher and Darren Woodson see there is a leadership problem with the Cowboys defense. An important part of turning things around next season will be having a leader on the field to keep everyone playing together and focusing on the mission at hand. Ratliff is the strongest candidate in my view but it could come from another player too. Regardless of where, it needs to happen.