Rob Ryan defends Anthony Spencer

The popular theory among some fans and media members is Cowboys outside linebacker Anthony Spencer isn't an elite player like DeMarcus Ware.

It seems unfair to compare the two players.

The Cowboys stopped Spencer from going on the free-agent market when they placed the franchise tag on him, worth $8.8 million.

When you look at the numbers, Spencer finished with just six sacks but had 31 quarterback pressures, second to Ware's 41, and his four forced fumbles led the team.

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was asked if Spencer had a better year than many thought.

"Yes, he did. Yeah, he did," Ryan said. "I know I listen to all them radio shows on the way home and when they’re not dog-cussing me, they’re dog-cussing him. The bottom line is: He’s a damn good football player. What we asked him do, he did a great job with."

Spencer has been described more as a run stopper who doesn't rush the passer with the frequency of Ware.

When you see Spencer with no sacks the last four weeks of the season, it raises some questions. Over that same time span, Spencer has two tackles for loss, coming against Philadelphia, and seven quarterback pressures.

"So if we send him more this year, that will be great," Ryan said. "I know everybody just looks at the bottom line on sacks or wins, and I don’t blame them. But as a coach, you appreciate a guy like Anthony Spencer because he does the right thing, and he plays hard. He forces fumbles. He still rushes the passer. He gets in the move. I think he’s going to have a great year."