On Sept. 5, Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware will begin his eighth season at MetLife Stadium against the reigning Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

However, earlier this week, on July 31, Ware celebrated another important milestone, his 30th birthday.

Ware stands atop the Mount Rushmore of elite defensive players in the game today alongside Darrelle Revis and Patrick Willis. Not only is he effective from both sides of the formation but since 2008, he’s led the league in sacks despite rushing the passer on 200 fewer snaps than Jared Allen according to ProFootballFocus.

According to Pro Football Focus, Ware has also led the NFL in total pressure, a combination of sacks, hits and hurries, since 2008. Jared Allen has 32 fewer total pressures than Ware’s 227 during that time period.

However, even in a historical context, Ware is in elite company as a sack artist.

While Reggie White is considered the gold standard of pass rushers and Bruce Smith is the all-time statistical sack leader, Ware measures up quite favorably.

Keeping in mind that the sack didn’t become an official statistic until 1982, the same year Ware was born, he has the third most sacks for a player beginning his first full season as a member of the 30 and over crowd.

In fact, if you peak at the top-ten pass rushers of all-time, Ware is pacing ahead of all but The Minister of Defense, Reggie White.

As impressive as these numbers are, they’re more striking when you put them in a historical perspective.

Last season, despite a lack of dominant pass rushers Ware accumulated 19 sacks in 16 games to give him 99.5  sacks in 112 career games played.

By comparison, Lawrence Taylor had 98.5 sacks in 113 games before beginning his first full season as a 30-year-old outside linebacker.

Kevin Greene, the all-time sacks leader for linebackers, who was born exactly 20 years before Ware, had 62 sacks at the same point in his career.

The only two players to corral more quarterbacks at a quicker pace have been Vikings defensive end Jared Allen and White.

In fact, here’s a snapshot of where the NFL’s most prolific pass rushers were at the same point in their careers.

Name Sacks Per Game Sacks Per Season
1. Bruce Smith .85 11.5
2. Reggie White 1.05 15.8
3. Kevin Greene .61 9
4. Chris Doleman .56 8.8
7. Richard Dent .78 11.6
12. Derrick Thomas .77 12.2
29. DeMarcus Ware .89 14.2
8. Jason Taylor .65 10.1
9. Lawrence Taylor .87 12.3
Mark Gastineau .91 12
20. Jared Allen .84 13.1

On a list of the best pass rushers of the modern era, Ware is second only to White in sacks per game and sacks per season.

Say what you want about Jerry Jones’ natural inclination for meddling as well as his role as official team general manager, however, it was his decision to overrule Bill Parcells and select Ware over Marcus Spears in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft.

However, 30 is also an impasse in his career. Gastineau recorded just 11.5 more sacks in two seasons before retiring. After 30, Lawrence Taylor had two more seasons in which he recorded double-digit sacks. The Giants won the Super Bowl and then Taylor faded into the background.

Lawrence Taylor was exceptional in that unlike Ware, he was a superior run-stopping outside linebacker who regularly led the Giants defense in tackles.

Conversely, Greene is the model of post-30 excellence as he recorded 97 of his 160 career sacks after 30.  Greene retired with 160 career sacks, which puts Ware in excellent position to become the all-time leading pass rushing linebacker.

In addition, Ware is a better overall defender than Greene who retired with 669 career tackles and 23 forced fumbles. Ware has 480, 27 forced fumbles in seven seasons and has done so for a single franchise his entire career.

Ware’s consistency has been a huge factor in his awe-inspiring numbers. He’s recorded 10 or more sacks in six straight seasons and is one of only five players to be the NFL’s sack leader in multiple seasons.

If rookie Morris Claiborne lives up to his billing, DeMarco Murray can stay healthy, Bryant plays up to his draft potential and if Ware continues his bounty hunter-like pursuit of quarterbacks for years to come the Cowboys Super Bowl window, which Jerry Jones believes could be closing, may stay cracked for a few more seasons.

If Ware can play at least five more seasons at his current All-Pro level, he may also be challenging the numbers of some all-time greats.