Getting kinda used to this, aren't we?

Seventh Heaven

Pacman's in limbo. Newman's hurt. T.O.'s moody. Wade Phillips is edgy. For a 4-1 team, it's difficult to find the Dallas Cowboys' positives:

Ah-hah! There's one:

Couple three years ago I was on the couch watching a Cowboys’ game with my brother. He bemoaned another loss by summing up our desperation thusly:

“Ratliff?! Some dude named Ratliff just made a tackle. Who the heck is Ratliff?! Gawd, we are so lame!”

Back then “Ratliff?!” was No. 66, a 7th-round afterthought from Auburn. These days – though he’s one of the few Cowboys you probably wouldn’t recognize walking down the street – Jay Ratliff is the starting nose tackle and one of the Cowboys’ best defensive lineman, if not one of their best overall players.

Who knew?

I just finished watching Cowboys-Bengals again and there he was – acting all savagely in his No. 90 – tossing aside the center, slamming the running back for a loss and bellowing a primal scream right in the grill of Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer.

Ratliff has not only beat out Tank Johnson for the starting job, but he has 20 tackles and three sacks to totally justify his new six-year, $20 million contract. Only 6-4 and around 290, Ratliff is several Happy Meals smaller than your prototypical nose guard. But his quickness and agility -- along with surprising strength -- seemingly allow him to get comfy in opponents' backfield on a weekly basis.

Not bad for a 7th-round draft choice, the 224th player selected in 2005.

But, come to think of it, seven has always been pretty decent for Dallas drafts. My ranking of the Top 7 7th-Rounders in Cowboys' History:

1. Rayfield Wright, Fort Valley State ’67 2. Bob Hayes, Florida A&M ‘64 3. Mike Hegman, Tennessee State ’75 4. Patrick Crayton, NW Oklahoma ’04 5. Leon Lett, Emporia State ’91 6. Jay Ratliff, Auburn ’05 7. Brock Marion, Nevada-Reno ‘93 – Richie Whitt

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