Monday, March 28, 2011

Player Profile #31: Jay Ratliff

Jay Ratliff
Position: Nose Tackle
Size: 6'4, 305
Age: 29, 8/29/81
College: Auburn
Drafted: 2005: Round 7, Pick 224
Experience: 6 Seasons

Salary History and Contract Status - 12/14/2007: Signed a five-year, $20.935 million contract. The deal included an $8 million signing bonus. 2011: $3.75 million, 2012: $4.875 million, 2013: Free Agent

2005 Draft Profile From Ratliff - Auburn - 6'3 - 285 - 4.82 - Starter two of the past three seasons, posting 37/4/1 as a senior. Moved to defensive tackle as a senior after primarily playing the end position since his freshman campaign. Undersized yet athletic lineman who improved his play as a senior. Leverage defender who stays low to the ground, quickly changes direction and displays the ability to immediately alter his angle of attack. Plays with balance, forward lean and rarely off his feet. Showed marked improvement reading and diagnosing the action last year. Works his hands to stay off blocks, pursues laterally and displays speed to the flanks. Fluid changing direction and makes plays up and down the line of scrimmage. Small for a defensive tackle, handled by opponents and turned off the line of scrimmage. Several durability issues prior to his senior campaign. : A potential late bloomer, Ratliff capped off a fine senior campaign with an excellent showing in the East-West game this past January. Has the ability to backup at several positions in the NFL and could be used as a three-technique tackle or left defensive end. Must continue to stay healthy and progress, but has solid upside for the next level. Late Third Round.

Pre 2010: Ratliff is without question one of the great success stories on the Dallas Cowboys roster. When he was drafted in the 7th Round, the Cowboys were in the middle of switching to the 3-4 defense and stock piling with all sorts of resources to build up the front 7 of that defense. In the 1st Round of that draft, the Cowboys took DeMarcus Ware and Marcus Spears. They would follow that with LB Kevin Burnett and DE Chris Canty in the next few rounds. Little did anyone know that in the 7th Round, they would find a player who would combine with Ware to be the true 2nd stud on this defensive front for the next generation. Ratliff came along slowly but with promise in 2005 and 2006 with play as part of a defensive line rotation. But, in 2007, Ratliff experienced the opportunity of a career. Jason Ferguson was lost in Week 1 for the season with a torn bicep and although the entire area slumped with disappointment, Ratliff quickly demonstrated that he was ready for his chance. Since that '07 opener, Ratliff has started 62 of 63 games, with the only missed start being the final game of 2007 when Wade Phillips decided to rest him. His production and his intensity in tandem with Ware have been pillars that the Cowboys defense has been built on for several years now. When looking for elite players on this team, you don't get too far down the list before you recognize this 224th pick of the 2005 draft.

2010: For the first time in years, Ratliff did not have a good year against the run according to the graders at - in fact, if you just look at the 2010 season, Ratliff actually graded out as the worst defender on the entire unit against the run. In particular, in Week 2 versus Chicago and Week 11 against the Lions, the Cowboys expected to win the interior battles but Ratliff just wasn't himself and had poor performances on running downs. But, beyond that, Ratliff had 34 disruptive pass-rush plays with 26 pressures, 4 hits, and 4 sacks for the season and his performances on the road at Houston and Indianapolis were vintage Ratliff. He also finished the year strong with a solid December. His sacks and tackles were down from the last few years, but, his play cannot always be judged on pure statistics. When watching him, it still appears that he is more than a handful for opposing offenses to deal with.

2011 Analysis: Moving forward, the questions about Ratliff are as follows; Should the Cowboys be concerned with diminishing sack and tackle numbers in the last 3 seasons? And, should they be concerned with a 2010 that was not good enough against the run? As we have talked about in the past, the Cowboys do not follow the trend of the elite 3-4 defenses in the NFL by having a monstrous 2-gap NT to build around. Tim Layden wrote on his profile of NT's back in January: "Consider: (Casey) Hampton (at least 325 - Steelers), Vince Wilfork (325 lbs - Patriots) and B.J. Raji (337 lbs - Packers) are old-school 3--4 nosetackles (although Wilfork has occasionally played on the end this year). Haloti Ngata of the Ravens is a 350-pound 3--4 tackle." But, the Cowboys employ a NT who is barely over 300. When he is playing well against the run, we all ignore it. When he has a poor year against the run in 2010 and is approaching 30 years old, many of us plead for the Cowboys to get a true NT, move Ratliff to DE, and kill 2 birds with 1 stone. This remains a source of many bar-room debates among Cowboys' observers, and you can bet Rob Ryan, Jason Garrett, and Jerry Jones are engaged in this study, as well. Regardless, the Cowboys gambled on a contract at the end of the 2007 season and seem to have one of the best bargains in the NFL with the consistent, elite play of Ratliff. But on a team without an excess of elite play, we wonder how best to deploy big #90. My feeling is that targeting a NT in the draft or free agency is the best way to keep Ratliff from wearing down over the course of each season and ultimately his career. A move to Defensive end would seem the best way to extend his career and maximize what he does well for this team - disruptive plays from his ability to beat 1-on-1 blocks in passing scenarios - and minimize what is becoming a bit of an issue.

Previous Profiles:

Miles Austin

Alex Barron

Martellus Bennett

Stephen Bowen

Keith Brooking

Dez Bryant

Victor Butler

Marc Colombo

Phil Costa

Leonard Davis

Doug Free

Andre Gurode

Montrae Holland

Jesse Holley

Sam Hurd

Bradie James

Kyle Kosier

Sean Lee

Kevin Ogletree

Igor Olshansky

John Phillips

Marcus Spears

Anthony Spencer

DeMarcus Ware

Brandon Williams

Leon Williams

Roy Williams

Jason Witten

Sam Young

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