The Cowboys 10 Most Important Players
By Kenny Decker
While every man on the 53 man roster could have an impact on a single game, here are the 10 most important players to the Dallas Cowboys 2014 season:
Williams will look to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump while taking on a bigger role in the Dallas offense. With the signing of Miles Austin in Cleveland, Williams became the clear-cut No. 2 wide receiver in Dallas' offense. He will be called upon to make plays and pick up first downs while Dez Bryant picks up most of the attention from opposing defenses. Williams will face mostly single coverage with Bryant on the opposite side and Jason Witten in the middle, and he needs to capitalize to make the Dallas offense an even bigger threat.
Selvie will be relied on to lead a young squad of defensive linemen with the departures of DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher. The Dallas pass rush could make or break the Cowboys season, and Selvie will be expected to lead the way. He may not pick up the most sacks, but he stepped in for Dallas last season and will be expected to be even more dangerous in the backfield this season.
8. Tyron Smith
Everyone can take a deep breath and relax now that Smith has been locked up for several more years. Now he needs to prove he earns that contract. On top of that, Romo is coming off back surgery, so it will be vital that Smith protects his quarterback's blindside.
7. Jason Witten
Witten has been important to Dallas' success every season he has been in a Cowboys uniform. But now, with other players developing as bigger threats and Witten slowing up a bit, he will take on a different role. He will still be called on to block the way he has for years. His expectations on offense won't be to be a top receiving tight end in the league, but rather, stretch the field and make defenses have to pick their poison.
Bryant and Williams are threats on the outside, and Romo likes to check down to his slot receivers and running backs. So Witten's importance is to remain a threat. He could be due for a big season if defenses choose to leave him open or match him with single coverage, or he could simply draw extra attention that leaves other players open. Either way, Witten (even at age 32) is still very important to the Cowboys success.
6. Justin Durant and Bruce Carter
It is hard to choose between these two, but they both are important for the same reason -- replacing Sean Lee. Lee will miss the whole season after tearing his ACL in OTAs. Carter and Durant will be called upon to bring some of what Lee brought to the table for the Cowboys defense. Between the two of them, they need to form a strong middle of a defensive unit with big expectations after last season’s dismal performance.
5. Brandon Carr
Carr has talked the talk -- now it is time for him to walk the walk. During this past offseason, Carr talked about being ready to make the jump to being a shutdown corner in the league. He brought up how it is his time to step up for the Cowboys. Well, they are certainly ready. Carr has been somewhat of a disappointment since signing his big contract with the team, and he needs to be that shutdown corner he talked about. He needs to step up. This has to be a huge year for Carr.
4. Demarco Murray
Coming off the best season of his young career, Murray is poised for a huge season. Given the strength of the Cowboys passing game, the running lanes will be there. He has a strong offensive line in front of him, so all the pieces are in place for Murray to have a big season. He just needs to stay healthy. If Murray stays healthy, this Cowboys offense could be overpowering.
3. Dez Bryant
Bryant is playing for a contract. He is playing to prove he is a Top 5 wide receiver in the NFL. He is playing to show people his on-field passion -- often perceived as selfishness -- is a driving force behind his desire to win. He will certainly face double and triple teams, but the great ones still put up numbers. Bryant became a favorite red-zone target of Romo late last season. There will be tons of attention on Bryant, but the spotlight is there for the taking. He has a good opportunity to prove a lot of things to everyone and his ability to do that will have a big impact on the Cowboys success.
2. Barry Church
Church will look to lead a defense that struggled mightily in 2013. With Ware and Hatcher gone and Lee out for the season, Church becomes the leader of the unit. He has said that barring injuries, the sky is the limit for the Cowboys defense. They have talented players and a brilliant coordinator, but the results just weren't there last season. Church has to help make this unit become one feared by opposing teams. The Cowboys may go as far as Church takes them.
1. Tony Romo
The obvious choice for the Cowboys most important player is Romo. His offseason back surgery is a question mark. Will he be able to throw down the field with the same strength and accuracy? Will he be able to move around the pocket like he does so well? On top of this, Romo has the pressure of proving to people he can win big games. If he wants to be considered elite, he has to prove it. If he wants to win a ring, he has to take the team there. Church and all these players have a big impact on the Cowboys success, but the team will only go as far as Romo takes them. He is the most important player on their roster, and it's not close.