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Why DeMarcus Ware’s Rebound Isn’t Guaranteed

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At Dallas News, I explained why DeMarcus Ware, while still a dominant defensive player at times, isn’t a guarantee to bounce back in 2013.

Monte Kiffin’s defense lives and dies with pressure. If the Cowboys can generate a quality pass-rush without excessive blitzes, they’re going to force a lot of takeaways and finish in the top 10 in total defense by year’s end. If they can’t get to the quarterback with four defenders, it’s going to make that task a whole lot more challenging.

There’s a general consensus that star defensive end DeMarcus Ware is going to bounce back from a “down” 2012 season in which he was frequently banged up and totaled only 11.5 sacks. There’s no doubt that Ware’s health affected his 2012 play. The question, however, shouldn’t be whether or not Ware was hurt, but rather whether or not pass-rushers at his age typically start to decline—whether it be from injuries or a deteriorating skill set.

So I tracked the historic production of pass-rushers in terms of approximate value—a good measure for overall value that incorporates tackles and sacks—and sorted it by age. I did the same for Ware for both his tackles and sacks. Below, the x-axis is age and the y-axis is the percentage of peak career production.

The idea was to see whether or not Ware’s progression has been typical. You can see that the average pass-rusher develops earlier than most positions, peaking at ages 25 and 26. There’s a small drop in play around age 27—to around 90 percent of peak production—and most pass-rushers can maintain that level of play until around age 32 or 33.

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