Spencer confounds Newton in Carolina
OCT 25, 2012 12:01p ET
To me, not only is he worth $8 million, but I have been saying for quite a while that I am fine with them offering a contract like Doug Free's (4 years, $32 million) to Spencer and now only wonder if it would be accepted by Spencer and his agent, Jordan Woy. Here are a few of the essays I have written on the Spencer situation from last winter here and then another one here where I was suggesting the franchise tag.
He is certainly not a sack machine and likely never will be, but a day like Sunday shows you that he has things in his game that even Ware doesn't, and if the Cowboys lost him in free agency, they would have to spend their 1st Round pick on his replacement rather than upgrade other spots on their team that are not properly filled right now. Spencer is a very strong outside linebacker who has versatility to do everything you ask of him. We are caught up in sacks as the complete evaluation for a LB, and that is simply not proper. He drops in coverage well, he defeats run plays consistently, he can rush the passer, and he is constantly running to the ball through the whistle, regardless of how far it is away.
In a word, he is a guy that would cause many issues if you lost him.
With that positioning statement out of the way, I wanted to look at this game where he was credited with six tackles and one sack. But, what I thought was impressive were the plays in which he was not credited with anything, but his role in the play helped others make the stop. So, of the following five plays we will look at, he will only be credited with a statistic on the final play. Otherwise, these are all plays where nothing goes in the stats or box-score. But, he played a major role in each one - all of them in the second half.
Play #1 -
Here we go, 3rd and 1 from the Carolina 29. The Panthers run this play in short yardage, and with a QB like Newton, this has a very high conversion percentage because it only needs 1 yard.
The picture above is fantastic. Look how he turns Newton back inside into the teeth of the defense. Here comes Conner and Sensabaugh to make the stop short of the marker. Spencer did all of the work here, but did not receive even a mention in the play-by-play. But, he absolutely ruined this play by his ability to not fall for Newton's trick - unlike Ware a bit earlier.
===Play #2 -
Here is another key 3rd down situation where the Cowboys want to get off the field. 3 man rush, and Spencer is going to beat RT Garry Williams to the edge before Williams is out of his stance.
===Play #3 -
Here, after having some great success running the read option at Ware, they decide to try Spencer on again. The play is a read off of Spencer on whether Newton keeps or shovels ahead to Stewart who is cutting to RT. The idea is either Newton can go outside Spencer or Stewart can cut back inside him. This is a direct attack at the OLB on the right side, Spencer.
The picture below shows Spencer's bind. His first priority has to be Newton, because he has some reinforcements on Stewart, but if Newton crosses his face to the outside, this can get very dangerous for a huge chunk of yardage.
Bruce Carter is credited with the solo tackle, but it is another case of Spencer rejecting the Panthers idea.
===Play #4 -
This is one that is tough to do justice with pictures, so if you still have the game, try to go find this play.
Newton is looking to get out on the move here by letting the edge rushers go past him and then get out on the run where he can do real damage.
Look below, and see Spencer to Newton's right, actually past Newton upfield. At the very moment the picture is being taken, Newton is seeing that inviting path and Spencer is trying to slam on the brakes to get back and close off the path that Newton sees.
And then, as Spencer shows back in the hole, Newton panics and throws the ball away quickly. It goes down on the stat sheet as an incomplete pass, but Spencer again seems to be messing with Newton, showing him things to get him to believe something is available and then racing back to take it away.
===Play #5 -
And finally, the play that seals the game. 3rd and long and Newton needs a big play. But, his offensive line was not holding up. Spencer bulls right past Williams at Right Tackle and gets the sack.
Pretty strong job and in some respects, a trial run for the upcoming dates with Robert Griffin III, as this team is going to have to deal with the read-keep options that Washington is rolling out 2 times every season. It is vital to have strong play from the outside linebackers in these situations in particular.
There is nobody on the roster who comes close to Spencer's ability on the edge opposite Ware. He is in his prime and he is a player who would be snapped up by a 3-4 team if he hit free agency. An extension this past summer would have been cheaper, I suspect, but it still behooves them to get something done.
We have seen what he does and what they miss when he is injured or gone.
I think Sunday was just another example of his value to this team moving forward.