Why Ware, Hatcher are off the field

IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys like to rotate their defensive linemen from time-to-time.

Defensive line coach Rod Marinelli likes to use fresh players on the field as one of the reasons for a rotation. Marinelli keeps hustle stats whereas he wants linemen to run down field on pass plays. If they don't those players get a negative grade.

In theory that's how the Cowboys can create turnovers if a receiver or running back sprints down field, a defensive lineman comes from behind and can force a strip. The fresher the player the better chance you have of making a play.

Which brings us to DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher.

There are times when both men are off the field at the same time especially on some third-down plays.

One would think Ware and Hatcher need to be on the field for at least 90 percent of the snaps. Against Green Bay, Ware played in 54 of 68 total plays while Hatcher contributed in 52 plays.

Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin was asked why Ware and Hatcher are off the field so much.

"Oh, I don’t know," he said. "I think it just depends on the situation. They get taxed out a little bit and things like that. They need a break here and there. DWare, you can say whatever you want, the guy’s been banged up. He’s trying to play hurt, and you’ve got to admire the guy for that. But he wants to play better and we want him to play better."

Ware has struggled of late.

After getting two sacks each in Weeks 2 and 3, he hasn't compiled at least one sack in consecutive weeks since. Ware did miss three games with a quad injury, the first such games he's missed in his career and he was dealing with a nagging stinger. But Ware hasn't been a dominant force and was credited with two quarterback pressures against the Packers and five in the last two games.

Hatcher, after such a fast start, hasn't sacked the quarterback since getting two in Nov. 24 at the New York Giants. Hatcher was credited with just one quarterback pressure against the Packers.

And like Ware, he's dealing with some health issues. Hatcher missed the New Orleans game with a stinger, but returned the following week and picked up two sacks and two quarterback pressures against the Giants.

After that, zero sacks the next three weeks and four quarterback pressures over the same span.

Ware has said health isn't an issue for him anymore, but you wonder if it really is. Hatcher falls into the same boat and given his contract status, he becomes a free agent after the season, every snap he takes will be scrutinized.

Given the Cowboys delicate status for the postseason, having Hatcher and Ware on the field at least 80 percent of the time is vital to the success and seeing how bad the defense is playing this team needs everybody on the field making plays.