In the final 20 days before the start of the regular season, we have been counting down the top 20 players in the NFC East. For a full explanation, see this post. And if you want to read any of the other posts that have run since we started this series, you can find them all here, in this link.
(Last year: No. 2)
The premier pass-rusher in the game today, the 31-year-old Ware ranks fourth among active players and 19th in NFL history with 111 career sacks in his eight professional seasons so far. He has piled up those numbers as a standup outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, and with the Cowboys converting this year to a 4-3 front he now will line up on the line of scrimmage every play with his hand on the ground as a 4-3 defensive end. It's a transition no one is remotely concerned about his ability to make while remaining productive.
Ware has the speed, the athleticism, the instincts, the meanness and the repertoire to handle any pass-rushing assignment given to him. If his new job is to line up against the opponent's left tackle every week, then opponents are going to be giving their left tackles more help on weeks when they play the Cowboys. Ware showed no trouble at all this offseason and training camp with the transition, and as long as he's healthy he should continue to post sack totals well into double-digits. His 2008 and 2011 totals of 20 and 19.5 sacks, respectively, rank as two of the top 10 sack seasons in NFL history. He also led the league with 15.5 in 2010.
Ware is a master at the peak of his powers. The only concern going into this season is whether he'll wear down under the increased physical demands that playing on the line every play will put on him. But if you're betting on a guy to be prepared to anticipate and handle the demands of his new job, there are worse places to put your money than on the future Hall of Famer in Dallas.
The rest of the rankings: