I like optimism, I really do. I'm an optimistic person myself. When it comes to football, it's not hard to look at a certain player and think he'll have a breakout season during July. But there comes a time during the NFL offseason that you have to stop and look at things realistically. The “This Player Looks Younger Than Three Years Ago” and “This Other Player Feels Better Than Ever” headlines can become pretty exhausting.
Every year, there's at least one player who doesn't live up to these optimistic offseason expectations, and ends up disappointing fans.
That is why today, I try to identify three Cowboys players who could end up disappointing Cowboys Nation in 2017.
Before we begin, it's worth mentioning that I avoided both rookies and free agents who've just joined the team.
S Jeff Heath
Safety is a position that will be up for grabs this year, and with multiple decent players fighting for the starting job, Jeff Heath has a chance to get more snaps this season. Heath has shown promising flashes when on the field, and naturally, expectations have grown for him.
Heath was signed as an UDFA in 2013. There must be a reason why we haven't seen him much. There must be a reason why he never outplayed JJ Wilcox. Sure, Wilcox did have a pretty good season in 2016, but that wasn't the case in previous years.
Throughout the offseason, Jeff Heath has been one of the main topics for Cowboys fans.
Problem is, we haven't seen Heath play on a consistent basis.
Sometimes, he can look like a playmaker. But he probably hasn't shown us enough from a coverage perspective. Out of the three players on this list, he may be the least likely to live up to expectations.
OL La'el Collins
Collins did a good job as a LG during 2015. He never stopped throwing defenders around. But we didn't see him as much in 2016. After suffering an injury against the Chicago Bears, Ron Leary took his place.
Before that though, Collins didn't seem to have progressed much. After Leary took over, the offensive line worked better. In my opinion, the only player who can replace Ron Leary without being a downgrade for the position is La'el.
The last we saw from Collins as a left guard was barely above-average. He hasn't played a single snap at RT. He has the traits, but how good will he really be?
It's only fair to recognize he might fail to have an above-average performance as a RT in 2017.
DL David Irving
Irving is perhaps the most promising DL on the team right now. He's always shown flashes of a great pass rusher and late last year he had several premium performances. It was just a matter of getting him more snaps. There doesn't seem to be a reason to think he won't be as good or better this year.
It wasn't until the Cowboys final three games that we saw Irving most of the time on the field. Before that he didn't have a very big role.
Will he be able to have a breakout year after being out for the first four games? Or will he fail to meet expectations?