NFL Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys: 5 Players Facing Make-or-Break Seasons in 2013

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Five Cowboys Facing Make-or-Break 2013

Geoff Burke - USA Today Sports

There’s no question it has been a tough stretch of late to be a Dallas Cowboys fan. For the second straight year, they were presented with a “win and you’re in” scenario. All they had to do was win the final game of the regular season and they would’ve been in the playoffs. For two straight years, Tony Romo, Jason Garrett and Jerry Jones failed to complete the task. In 2011, it was the New York Giants and last year it was the Washington Redskins.

A franchise of so much glory and past success has been reduced to a laughing stock. They have not made the playoffs since 2009, and Romo has one playoff win in his career in a Cowboys uniform. That was apparently enough for Jerry Jones to sign him to a $108 million contract extension this past offseason.

The problem with the Cowboys is that there is no structure of leadership. Jerry Jones is the owner and general manager, and has made some questionable personnel decisions in the past. Garrett is the head coach but seems to have no voice in the locker room, and his play-calling ability has been put into question. Romo turns the ball over too much and does not come up clutch when this franchise needs him most.

Despite all of that going against them, the Cowboys seem to believe they are in good shape. All is calm in Jerry’s world. But if the Cowboys find a way to keep themselves out of the playoffs for a fourth straight year, there’s no way Jerry keeps this roster and coaching staff intact. With the entire season becoming a make-or-break for the Cowboys, here’s five players that will be feeling the heat this season if things don’t turn around.

Zach Slotter is a writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @zslot6, Like his Facebook page or add him to your network on Google.

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Tony Romo

Geoff Burke - USA Today Sports

There isn’t a more obvious one than this. Romo has been the subject of criticism throughout his entire tenure in Dallas. He puts up gaudy numbers but when the time comes in a big game, he just simply makes too many mistakes. Jones gave him all the confidence in the world by signing him to this extension, so now there are no excuses but to perform. With Texas A&M superstar Johnny Manziel draft eligible next year, Jones would not hesitate to the pull the plug on the Romo experiment if he doesn’t see results.

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Miles Austin

Matthew Emmons - USA Today Sports

Two years ago, it was Laurent Robinson. Last year, it was Kevin Ogletree. This year, we have no idea who the third receiver will be for the Cowboys. That puts even more pressure on the No. 2 receiver Miles Austin to step up and produce. After two straight 1,000 yard seasons, Austin has failed to duplicate that success in the past two. The Cowboys have two young receivers in Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams that they really like, meaning Austin has to produce right now.

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Doug Free

Matthew Emmons - USA Today Sports

If there’s anyone that received the amount of abuse close to that of Romo got last year, it was Doug Free. This would have been the third year of a four-year $32 million dollar contract but luckily for Cowboys fans, Free was generous enough to take a pay cut. He led the NFL with 15 penalties at the offensive tackle position and his simply been a bust. He is lucky to still be on this team and he has to prove he’s willing to fight for his job, or he’ll be gone by season’s end.

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Anthony Spencer

Matthew Emmons - USA Today Sports

Unable to work out a long-term deal, the Cowboys used the franchise tag on Anthony Spencer, costing them $10.6 million in the process. Spencer is coming off a very productive year with 55 tackles and 11 sacks, but he will be moving from outside linebacker to defensive end as the Cowboys shift from the 3-4 to the 4-3 defense. This is a big year for Spencer as he can prove that he is capable of playing both positions and that he warrants a long-term deal either from the Cowboys or from someone else.

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Jay Ratliff

Matthew Emmons - USA Today Sports

2012 was a miserable year for Jay Ratliff. He only played in six games because of injury and he wasn’t very productive when he was on the field (10 tackles and no sacks). A change to the 4-3 will move Ratliff from that nose tackle position and put him split with another defensive tackle on the front line. He needs to step up this year to prove he was worth the extension he was given. If the Cowboys have another year like the last two, no one on this roster is safe.