Lady Luck Shines On Cowboys, Spears...Chad Peters
DallasCowboys.com Staff Writer
April 23, 2005, 11:12 p.m. (CDT)
IRVING, Texas - When Marcus Spears slid to the 20th pick Saturday, the Cowboys knew luck was on their side.
After passing on the former LSU defensive end earlier in the first round, the Cowboys sweated it out and anxiously waited for Spears to fall to their next pick. And when he did, they weren't about to pass on the 6-foot-4, 307-pound defensive end again in the NFL Draft.
"I think we had a little good fortune there on that 20th pick because I thought there was a good chance someone would come and get [Spears]," said Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells of selecting Spears. "Actually, we know now for a fact that someone was trying to trade up in front of us, but the (Aaron) Rodgers situation probably saved us from that happening."
The Cowboys certainly had good fortune on their side, but Spears felt just as opportunistic to get this chance to play for Parcells and the Cowboys in what's expected to be a new-look defense that is rapidly taking shape this off-season.
"This situation couldn't be any better," said Spears, who registered 120 tackles and nine sacks in his All-America 2004 season. "You go to an organization that knows exactly what it takes to be successful. You have a head coach that's been in the game a long time and is well respected . . . and it's America's Team."
Obtaining Spears doesn't commit the Cowboys to a 3-4 defensive scheme next season, but it does provide the flexibility to alternate between both fronts until the 3-4 is fully implemented if they decide to go in that direction.
Spears has the size to line up at defensive end in both schemes, and he also has the experience to slip inside and play defensive tackle at times, though Parcells said he has already instructed Spears to drop to the 295-pound weight range this off-season. Spears will complement defensive end Greg Ellis and defensive tackle La'Roi Glover, giving the Cowboys depth along the line they haven't had for since the early '90's.
"I want to reduce the number of plays Ellis and Glover get," Parcells said. "I think by reducing their roles 15-to-20 percent will improve their effectiveness long term."
Known as a high-character guy, Spears also fits the mold of the intelligent and disciplined players Parcells wants to build the Cowboys.
"This kid is so humble," said Eric Randal, Spears' former high school coach in Baton Rouge, La. "He's all over the television and he still takes time out to talk to the elementary schools. You can't find many people here in Baton Rouge or in the south region that can say anything bad about Marcus."
Despite not being recognized as a pure pass rusher, Spears uses his long arms and footwork to generate consistent pressure off the edge. Considered one of the nation's top basketball prospects out of high school, Spears should also be athletic enough to continue generating pressure at the next level after registering 19 career sacks at LSU and tallying 40 quarterback pressures over the last two seasons.
The Cowboys finished with only 33 sacks last season, the second-lowest mark in the NFC, so obtaining catalytic defensive players was a top priority for them in the draft. In fact, two players - Ellis and Glover - accounting for 16 of those sacks.
"I can't tell you the times that I walked in this past season with Bill just wringing his hands, saying we've got to get some pressure on these guys defensively," said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. "We were really torn that first pick on whether to draft a player like Spears that gave us complete options of being an end in a 4-3 or being an end in a 3-4."
It was a testy decision for the Cowboys, but one that ultimately worked out in their favor as they were able to grab both players. It is also a reunion of sorts for Ware and Spears, who formed a friendship while playing together at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
"I think it was supposed to work out this way," said Spears, showing no frustration of being passed over with the 11th pick. "I got a chance to meet Demarcus at the Senior Bowl. He's a great guy, so I'm really going to enjoy playing with him."
Spears' showing at the Senior Bowl helped solidify his standing as a top prospect in the Cowboys' minds. Jones was so intrigued by Spears that he stayed up Friday night breaking down film of what turned out to be his new defensive end.
"Spears, on a first-hand evaluation of him at the Senior Bowl, elevated himself in our eyes," Jones said. "Just as late as last night, I watched the entire game when Spears played against Shawn Andrews at Arkansas (20030 and just put it on as a junior. Andrews won some of them, but Spears held a great account of himself."
While a cloud of uncertainty might still hang around the Cowboys' defensive scheme, one thing's for certain: Changes are coming after the Cowboys allowed 406 points last season, a point that was reinforced Saturday afternoon.
"It's quite obvious our defense has a new look," Parcells said.
Thanks to a little bit of luck.