When it came to disgruntled Cowboys who left town after the 2008 season, Greg Ellis garnered a lot less notice than the reality TV star who shall remain nameless. Unless something changes quickly and drastically, that may not remain the case for much longer.
While the Cowboys offense seems to be approximately the same as the one that once featured Buffalo's catchless wonder, their defense is struggling mightily when it comes to rushing the passer. DeMarcus Ware has caught the brunt of the criticism for their lack of pressure, but that seems misguided when you realize that Anthony Spencer also has a goose egg under sacks on his stat sheet. Ware draws so much focus from opposing offenses that the guy on the other side has to make them pay and Spencer hasn't done that.
Spencer's lack of productivity has a lot to do with why the Cowboys have dropped from ninth to 23rd in Football Outsiders' DVOA statistic measuring defensive performance. There have been other tweaks to the unit, but the disappearance of the pass rush through the season's first two games has to be put heavily on Spencer's shoulders.
With Ware bottled up and Spencer a non-factor, it isn't hard to understand why the secondary has had their rough patches through the first three weeks. The best of defensive backs will be exposed by quarterbacks with time to throw and a defense that has to overcompensate to stop the pass leaves itself wide open against the run. When Ellis was in Dallas, offenses couldn't get comfortable against the Cowboys but there's been little fear among opponents thus far.
Ellis is gone because the team was convinced of Spencer's ability. That conviction has been shaken to the point that rookie Victor Butler was on the field during the fourth quarter of a tight game with the Panthers on Monday night. The good news is that Butler sacked Jake Delhomme twice in that fourth quarter and may be given more time at the expense of the totally ineffective Spencer going forward.
That would work well for the Cowboys personnel brain trust as it would justify both their decision to part ways with Ellis and their heretofore unremarkable 2009 draft class in one fell swoop.