The Dallas Cowboys made the playoffs last year and expectations are once again high. But after coming up short against the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs, the Cowboys need a few players to have breakout seasons to complete their goal of a Super Bowl title.
Breakout seasons happen every year in the NFL. Sometimes, the player in question makes the leap from very good to superstar. Sometimes, a player goes from role player to key starter. So who will be the breakout players for the Cowboys in 2017? We've put together five of the most likely candidates below.
CB Anthony Brown
Pressed into duty because of injuries, Brown played well for the Cowboys last year. He racked up one pick and eight pass breakups and held his own. And outside of Prescott, there might not have been a rookie in the whole NFL who exceeded expectations more than the sixth round pick from Purdue. But with Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr gone, Brown needs to take another step forward while holding off several rookies for playing time. If he can, he could become the Cowboys go-to outside corner sooner rather than later.
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OL La'El Collins
This is the only offensive player on the list, a result of the questions marks on defense and the loaded offense. With Doug Free retired, Collins will get the first shot to replace Free at RT. That's a key role for the Cowboys and it's time for Collins to play the like the projected first round pick the Cowboys snagged as an undrafted free agent. Collins was supposed to start at guard last year, but an injury prevented him from taking a step forward after a promising but inconsistent rookie year. Now, the Cowboys are banking on Collins to take that leap forward and stabilize the RT spot.
SS Jeff Heath
The Cowboys lost two of their top three safeties (J.J. Wilcox and Barry Church) this offseason, leaving Byron Jones (who needs to force more turnovers) and a giant question mark at strong safety. Unless cheap veteran Robert Blanton, late round rookie Xavier Woods or untested second-year player Kavon Frazier steps up, it's up to Heath to help replace those two. He's been a quality backup and key special teamer for the Cowboys for the past two years or so, but Heath must now take the occasional defensive play he makes and do them far more frequently. He played well when on the field last year, but being a full-time starter will be a challenge.
DE DeMarcus Lawrence
Several different defensive linemen could take this spot, from Maliek Collins to Benson Mayowa to Charles Tapper and even David Irving (who would have made this list if not for his pending suspension). But we're going with Lawrence, again. After a promising sophomore campaign that featured eight sacks, Lawrence was supposed to be the breakout star of the 2016 Cowboys defense. Instead, he was suspended and battled a back injury that limited him to one sack in nine games. But Lawrence should be healthy this year and even with Taco Charlton on the roster, Lawrence will get a shot to have that true breakout season. The Cowboys hope he takes that leap in a contract year and doesn't become another Tyrone Crawford.
LB Jaylon Smith
Rookies are usually exempt from this list, but an exception is being made for Smith. There isn't a player on the Cowboys roster (except for maybe Rico Gathers) who Cowboys fans want to breakout. And if Smith is healthy, he could form one of best 1-2 punches at LB in the NFL with Sean Lee. A top 5 talent (if not the outright best) in the 2016 NFL Draft, Smith fell to the second round because of a knee injury. That knee and the nerve that was damaged hasn't fully healed yet, but Smith is adamant he'll play this year and says he feels great. If Smith is correct, he could have a big season for Dallas. However, he remains a boom-or-bust player for the Cowboys this year.Back to the Dallas Cowboys Newsfeed