Chris McCosky/ The Detroit News
Allen Park— Jim Schwartz thinks there might be a typo on the Cowboys two-deep roster. DeMarcus Ware is listed under JLB — which in defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s parlance means Jack linebacker.
“What do they list him as, JLB?” Schwartz said. “What they need to do is list him as G-O-O-D.”
Truthfully, they could list the entire Cowboys defense under that heading. It ranks first in the NFC (fifth in the NFL) in total defense (288 yards), second in the NFL against the run (61.3) and first in the league in sacks (13).
Ware, who will be playing in his 100th game Sunday, has a league-high five sacks. His 85 career sacks are second only to Reggie White’s 105 in 100 games.
“Is there a better player than that guy right now on defense?” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said.. “I have a hard time finding one that affects the game like he does.”
The Lions actually did a reasonable job against Ware last season, limiting him to four tackles, one-half sack and three quarterback hits. But Ware is operating out of Ryan’s system now, and the defense is playing with more fire.
“Yeah, this is a whole new story,” Linehan said. “It’s like they talk about with great offensive players; you try to contain them. We have to try and contain (Ware) and keep those plays that change the game to a minimum.”
Two years ago, when quarterback Matthew Stafford was a rookie, Linehan went against a Ryan-coached defense in Cleveland and found a way to produce 473 yards (422 passing) and five touchdowns. It doesn’t sound like Linehan has referenced that tape much this week.
“We won some that day but we lost quite a few, too,” Linehan said. “His defense is an absolute nightmare to prepare for. The guy’s got them coming (rushing) from everywhere. He has everybody playing hard. They’ve bought in and believe in what they’re doing. Playing him causes a lot of sleepless nights for me and the offensive staff.”
If Stafford was the type of person who lost sleep over games — he’s not — he’d be baggy-eyed this week, too.
“They are very stout against the run and they have great players up front,” said Stafford, who will be playing in his hometown for the first time since he was in college at Georgia. “That front seven is some of the best we will face all year. And the back end is experienced with guys that know how to play Rob Ryan’s schemes. They are very multiple. They do a lot of different personnel packages and they mix in blitzes. It’s a tough defense.”
As for Ware, Stafford said there are some similarities between him and Chiefs defensive end Tamba Hali, who caused the Lions offensive line some stress in Week 2.
“They use (Ware) inside some, but they will rush him from the open end (opposite the tight end) and from the closed end — we had some practice with that against Hali,” Stafford said. “They are both very talented. We will have to know where he is at all times.”
The question remains, though, how will the Lions move the ball? They have struggled with a traditional run game (26th in the NFL), so it seems futile to force that. The Cowboys take away the deep pass as well as any team — they are one of three teams that have not allowed a reception longer than 40 yards.
So, as they did a week ago, perhaps the Lions will have to live or die with the short, ball control passing game. Or, if you listen to Schwartz, maybe not.
“It’s not just their talent, it’s their schemes also,” Schwartz said. “Their scheme is designed to make a team one-dimensional. They take the run away and then are able to get after the passer once you are one-dimensional. We need to get an efficient run game. If we do a good job running the ball, then we will be able to make plays in the passing game.”
As for the Cowboys pressure, Schwartz believes the Lions have options.
“We need to neutralize it, whether it be by running the ball, throwing it quick or by using extra protection,” he said. “But we need to account for Ware on every single play.”
Sunday’s game against the Lions will be the 100th for Cowboys OLB DeMarcus Ware. How his sack numbers, in history, stack up through 100 games: