5 Dallas Cowboys That Could be First-Time Pro Bowlers in 2013
Dallas Cowboys That Could Make the Pro Bowl for the First Time in 2013
The Dallas Cowboys have no shortage of talent.
For all their mediocrity in recent years, no one has questioned the individual talents and their skills that are present on this team. On offense, they have a ton of explosiveness. Tony Romo is -- for all the criticism he faces -- a very talented quarterback, Jason Witten is an all-time tight end and Miles Austin is a two time Pro Bowler.
DeMarco Murray is a young back with power and speed with a hard running style that's rare in the NFL today. Dez Bryant is a star in the making and a guy that could very well become a top five wide receiver this season.
On defense, they have a future Hall of Famer in DeMarcus Ware, a guy who has been the premier sack artist since he came into the league. Sean Lee and Bruce Carter form a great, young linebacking tandem and Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr are a cornerback pairing that a lot of teams would like to have.
In fact, this team has had no shortage of individual talent over the last five or six years and really has been one of the best teams on paper. They've had years where players have virtually covered the NFC Pro Bowl roster but failed to meet expectations. Exhibit A would be 2008, when the team went 13-3. They had 13 Pro Bowlers that year. Thirteen. Terrell Owens, Witten, Flozell Adams, Leonard Davis, Andre Gurode, Ware and Ken Hamlin were the starters, with Nick Folk at kicker. Cowboy reserves were Romo, Marion Barber, Greg Ellis, Terence Newman and Roy Williams.
The Pro Bowl is about recognizing individual talents above team, and the Cowboys have certainly had no shortage of individual talents in the past nor at the present time. Romo, Witten, Austin and Ware have all been Pro Bowlers -- as has Jay Ratliff -- but the team does have some very good younger players whose careers could take off in the next couple of years, each emerging as a top guy at their position.
Here are five that could be first time Pro Bowlers this season.
5. Tyron Smith
Smith, at just 22 years old, is already a very good left tackle. After a somewhat rough rookie year that was filled with a natural learning curve, he was solid last year. This is saying something considering Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck, divisional opponents whom Smith had to face twice a year, are very, very good. He has good hands which help in pass protection and has very good size and athleticism at 6-foot-5 and 318 pounds with long arms.
Joe Staley and Russell Okung are locks if they stay healthy, but it isn't inconceivable that Smith could get one of the other three spots, which last year belonged to Trent Williams, Jermon Bushrod and Matt Kalil.
4. DeMarco Murray
Murray could be higher on this list, but his injury concerns are why he's at No. 4.
The third year Las Vegas, Nevada product when healthy has been terrific. In his rookie season, he led the league in yards per carry with 5.5 and had a 253-yard rushing game that year.
But Murray's biggest issue has been his health, really dating back to his college days. In the pros, he has missed nine games in two seasons, which is simply too much. But a healthy Murray has been very productive.
The NFC boasts a perennial Pro Bowl lock in Adrian Peterson, and guys like Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore have been models of consistency throughout their careers.
All three of those guys were in Hawaii last year, so it will be tough for Murray to get in even if he is healthy. But if he is healthy and does play a full season, he certainly has a very good shot.
3. Brandon Carr
When the 27-year-old Carr signed his $50 million contract last summer with the Cowboys, a lot was expected of him, and understandably so.
To some observers, they would say that Carr didn't live up to his contract last year, but there's no mistaking his potential as a top corner in the league.
Carr has good size at 6-foot 206 pounds that can bother receivers, especially this season with the press coverage and physical cornerback style that the Cowboys' new Tampa 2 system requires.
He has also been a solid tackler in his career for a corner, tallying 290 in five pro seasons and has very good ball skills and timing.
Charles Tillman had a tremendous season last year, with 86 tackles, 10 forced fumbles and three interceptions, and if he repeats anything like he did last year, he'll be a lock. Fellow teammate Tim Jennings had a career season with nine interceptions, as the Chicago Bears' Tampa 2 defense -- coordinated by current Cowboys' defensive line coach Rod Marinelli -- led the league in creating turnovers. With Marinelli gone though and Jennings having a career year last year, there could be a position there for Carr for the taking, though premier shutdown man Darrelle Revis' addition to the conference will make it very tough. Carr is one of the five Cowboys that has the potential to get to the Pro Bowl for the first time this year.
2. Sean Lee
Lee is one of the league's best young linebackers and probably would have made the pro bowl last year if not for a toe injury that kept him out the final 10 games of 2012 season, tallying 58 tackles in those six games.
Lee has great speed, footwork and instincts as a middle linebacker, with the ability to roam sideline to sideline. He also has great cover skills -- he had four interceptions the season before last -- that make him a complete middle linebacker. Playing the true middle linebacker this season should only aid in his tackle totals.
Two of the NFC Pro Bowl spots at linebacker are locked down by teammates Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, but one of the other two spots could be Lee's. London Fletcher is a tackling machine still after 16 seasons in the league and playing undersized at 5-foot-10, 242 pounds, so if his production keeps up he'll be back in Hawaii.
Daryl Washington had 134 tackles and nine sacks last year, allowing him to make his first Pro Bowl, and Lee will most likely compete with him for the other spot on the NFC's roster. If he stays healthy, I would think Lee makes his first trip as an All-Star.
1. Dez Bryant
Bryant at No. 1 shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. Last year, he had a breakout season, catching 92 passes for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns. A lot of people thought that he was snubbed last season.
Though the NFC does have some top receivers in the form of Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Julio Jones, Roddy White, Larry Fitzgerald, Victor Cruz and Vincent Jackson, Bryant could very well establish himself this year as the clear cut next best in the conference to Johnson.
His size, speed and athleticism is only rivaled in the conference by Johnson, Marshall and probably Jones, and he was among the best last season. His 1,392 yards were just two off of Jackson for third most in the conference behind Johnson and Marshall, his 92 catches were tied for fourth in the conference with White and his 12 touchdowns were third in the entire league and best among the NFC's elite wide outs.
We also have to factor in that he had 10 of his touchdowns in the last eight games, with two 145-yard performances, one 224-yard performance and three games of 10 or more catches.
Dez was a late bloomer last season and still managed to put up the numbers that he did. His renewed focus this year and his look on the field so far in the preseason suggests he's going to have an off the charts season in 2013. Patrick Peterson has been called -- albeit a little crazily -- the league's best athlete, but Bryant made an extremely tough back shoulder catch yesterday that was all hands and strength.
That is most likely a sign of things to come during the regular year, and if it is, Bryant should have no problem establishing himself among the top five -- at least -- in the league at the receiver position and earning his first trip to the Pro Bowl.
Jake Carapella is a Dallas Cowboys writer for RantSports. Follow him on twitter @JKCSports1.