Unless you've spent the last week holed up in a cave, there's a good chance you've heard that Greg Ellis is on his way out of town--with the quickness, as they say.
This means that there will be a leadership void within the defense.
It means that there will be no pseudo-controversial training camp interviews. (Ellis had quite a penchant for those.)
It means, perhaps most of all, that in 2009, the outside linebacker position will be the responsibility of 2007 first round pick Anthony Spencer.
Spencer played the lion's share of running snaps atthe position last season, though Ellis remained the starter, more in title than practice. Head Coach Wade Phillips, by his own admission, did this sheerly out of respect for the veteran. And despite a career sack total of 4.5, both Phillips and owner Jerry Jones have been vocal in their confidence in Spencer.
"All you have to do is watch the tape," Phillips said. "When we go through film after the season, go through the tape after the season, we go through every play and most of our highlight stuff from that position was him. In some cases, you'd say, 'Hey, that's DeMarcus. No, it's not, that's Anthony.' I think he's going to be a really good player for us."
Spencer has already proven to be a deft run-stopper, and it's thought that his production against the past will get a boost from the attention paid to Demarcus Ware, as well as the fourth round additions of Brandon Williams and Victor Butler.
After an offseason that saw Spencer arrested for public intoxication outside of a bar in Indianapolis, questions have also arisen concerning the maturity of the Purdue product.
Jerry Jones disregards any such thinking, though.
"I don't have a maturity issue with Anthony Spencer," Jones said. "He's been everything and more that we want him to be."
Of course, Jones has never been much of a stickler in this regard. Dallas Cowboys are, and always have been, judged heavily on on-field performance; Spencer seems primed to go in this regard, at least.
Again, Spencer has proven deft at creating havoc in running lanes; his low sack total, as staggering as it may look on paper, is as much the product of Spencer's playing mostly running downs as anything. With Greg Ellis gone though, 2009 may just be a breakout year for the 25 year-old, as he moves into the role full time.
Spencer should have ample help; Dallas' defense was ranked 5th in the NFL against the pass, last season.