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March 23, 2011

Spencer needs to take the next step

It was supposed to be a breakout season for Anthony Spencer. The Cowboys linebackerannounced his arrival in the final eight games of the 2009 season, including two postseason games, when he had 58 tackles, eight sacks, 22 pressures and two forced fumbles. With DeMarcus Ware playing through injuries during that stretch, Spencer arguably was the Cowboys' best defender those eight games.

But Spencer, the 26th overall pick in 2007, didn't take the next step in 2010. He had only five sacks and 14 pressures. Ware had 15.5 sacks and 36 pressures. Spencer did have a career-high 105 tackles, which was fourth on the team. But the big plays he contributed late in the 2009 season weren't there in 2010.

For the Cowboys to get back to where they were as a defense late in the 2009 season, they need Spencer to play as well as he did then. The Cowboys are counting on it.

"Don’t be me wrong, sack numbers are important, but pressures are important and plays where he affects the quarterback is important," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett told reporters, including the Star-Telegram's Clarence Hill, during the NFL owners meetings this week. "The quarterback has to hurry because this guy is in my face, a hand in his face, he has to move quickly in the pocket and throw a ball up there that might create a turnover. All those things are factors that don’t show up on the stat sheet necessarily. He needs to get better; he’s working to get better. He understands that."

-- Charean Williams




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