Dallas Cowboys: Five Breakout Candidates for the 2013 NFL Season
Every year in the NFL, there are players who seemingly come out of left field and have a great season.
In 2012, the Dallas Cowboys saw wide receiver Dez Bryant develop into one of the most exciting players in the league, despite a slow start and a fractured left index finger later in the season. In 2013, the Cowboys will need Bryant to continue playing at a high level, but they will also need others to step-up if the team wants to be successful.
Because football is a team sport, all the players on the Cowboys roster will play an intricate part in the success or failure of the team. It’s a message that All-Pro tight end Jason Witten tried to send in during the 2012 pre-season and one that All-Pro linebacker DeMarcus Ware sent this off-season when he told the media that it was time to put up or shut up.
To a certain extent, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones feels the same way. In previous years, Jones told the media that he felt that the window of opportunity was closing on his team. It led Jones to make changes to the coaching staff and to both the offensive and defensive schemes in 2013, all in an attempt to put the best product on the field.
I have put together a list of five players that I think will have a breakout season for the Cowboys as they continue to try and make a playoff push in 2013. These five players have displayed that they have the talent, and I really think 2013 could be their year.
In 2012, Harris burst onto the scene as the team’s primary punt returner after Dez Bryant struggled mightily to get anything going. Later in the season Harris also became involved in the passing game, proving his worth as a receiver.
I expect Harris will continue being a factor on special teams and could be a valuable asset in the passing game if the Cowboys decide to go four-wide on offense or if third round pick Terrance Williams struggles while adapting to the NFL.
In 2012, Carter took over for an injured Sean Lee and didn’t look back. He became one of the most exciting players on defense by finding his way to the ball carrier and lighting up tight ends in the passing game.
Carter is one of the fastest linebackers in the league and the switch to the Tampa Cover 2 defense will use his skillset to maximize his potential. It would not surprise me if after the season Carter’s name were mentioned among the best in the NFL.
In 2012, Church’s season was ended prematurely due to a torn Achilles tendon. The Cowboys have Church penciled in as a starter and hope he can bounce back in 2013.
Church has paid his dues since coming into the NFL as an undrafted free agent and 2013 could be the year he finally breaks through. In previous years, the Cowboys liked Church’s aggressiveness while playing the run and they also liked his skills when playing the ball in the air. If he stays healthy Church may be the answer to the Cowboys safety problems as of late.
In 2012, Smith struggled at times while protecting quarterback Tony Romo’s blind side for the first time in his career, but that should change in 2013. Smith has the skillset to be one of the most dominant left tackles in the league, and under Bill Callahan, this season could be the one when he takes that next step.
In 2012, Crawford was impressive his rookie year, and the lack of depth on the defensive line guarantees that he will see the field in 2013. Crawford has the power and size to play the 3-technique, but also has the speed and agility to kick out and play defensive end. I hope Crawford continues to build on his notable rookie season, and it would not surprise me if at the end of the 2013 season, he’s made Jason Hatcher expendable.