The Dallas Cowboys have to be pretty happy with the way things have gone through the first five weeks of the 2016 season.
They are sitting atop the NFC East division with a 4-1 winning record and have done so despite the fact they are battling through numerous injuries to key players on both sides of the ball.
It's no secret that the Cowboys have a talented roster, but there have been some unexpected players that have stepped up and filled larger roles this year. This is been a big reason why they have gained national recognition and look to be a team to be reckoned with from here on out.
I thought it would be a good idea to identify some of the individuals that are responsible for helping the Dallas Cowboys get off to such a good start so far.
Below are six of the players that have unexpectedly become individually dominating members of the team so far in 2016.
No one could've possibly predicted that Dak Prescott not only start the 2016 season as the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, but perform as well as he has for the first five games of the year.
Prescott has unexpectedly led the Cowboys banged up offense to a 4-1 winning record and has done so in a dominating fashion.
#4 has yet to throw an interception and his loan turnover for the season was a fumble against the Cincinnati Bengals. He has thrown for 1,239 passing yards and four touchdowns, rushed for three touchdowns, and has an overall passer rating of 101.5.
Dak Prescott has performed so well in fact, that a lot of people are wondering whether or not he should remain the starting QB once Tony Romo is 100% healthy.
Okay, being the fourth overall draft pick and performing up to one's draft status might not fall into the category of being unexpected. But, who could have guessed Ezekiel Elliott completely dominate defenses like he has so far?
Elliott got out to a slow start, but as become more and more dominant with each game he plays.
To date, he is the leading rusher in the NFL with 546 rushing yards on 109 carries and has scored five TDs.
FEED THE MAN!
If he can keep up this pace he should shatter all kind of records for a rookie RB and help the Dallas Cowboys reach the playoffs.
I can't tell you how ecstatic I am to see Morris Claiborne finally playing up to his potential. I was a big fan of the selection when the Dallas Cowboys traded up to draft him, but injuries have negatively impacted his career in the NFL.
Claiborne has been one of best cornerbacks in the NFL and has pretty much shut down any wide receiver he has been asked to cover through the first five weeks of the 2016 season.
If Claiborne can remain healthy, he will not only help the backend of the Cowboys defense, but could possibly earn his first Pro Bowl appearance.
A lot of you still might not really know who Anthony Brown is, but he has not only stepped in for an injured Orlando Scandrick, but done so without the defense missing a step.
The Dallas Cowboys drafted Brown in the sixth round of this year's draft. They have found a player that has unexpectedly had to step into a larger role than initially anticipated, and has been impressive doing so.
Brown has been asked to cover the opponents slot receiver and so far has been up to the task. He has done an excellent job at arguably one of the most difficult positions on defense.
I encourage you to watch #30 next time he's on the field. I promise you won't be disappointed.
Before the season started not many people even thought that Terrell McClain would even be a member of the Dallas Cowboys when the 53 man roster was finalized, but I'm sure we are all glad that wasn't the case.
McClain has earned the right to start in the middle of the Cowboys defensive line over Cedric Thornton, who was the big-money free agent signing during the off-season.
He has arguably been the most dominating/consistent player the Dallas Cowboys have on that side of the ball and he is making plays in both the passing and running game.
Injuries have limited his playing time in Dallas, but if he can stay healthy this year, he can be an impact player.
If someone would've told you before the season started that Cole Beasley would be the best Dallas Cowboys wide receiver, what would you have said?
Upon learning that Dak Prescott would be the starting QB to start the season, I predicted that Beasley would benefit the most, but I never imagined how much.
Beasley has become Prescott's go to WR and he is on pace to double his catches and receiving yards from any of his previous seasons in the NFL.
#11 may be one of the smaller wide receivers in the league, but that doesn't mean his impact on the field isn't gigantic.
What do you think?
Let me hear your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below so that we can further discuss this topic.
WR Randall Cobb Named Cowboys “Surprise Standout” for Offseason
NFL teams have wrapped up their offseason activities with the close of OTAs, especially where the players are concerned, and await the start of training camps next month. In reviewing the last few months, ESPN had their local reporters each pick a surprise standout from their team's practices. Todd Archer, who covers the Dallas Cowboys full time, selected veteran receiver Randall Cobb.
Cobb is in his first season with Dallas after signing as a free agent last March. He's spent the last eight years with the Green Bay Packers and was a Pro Bowler in 2014, but has struggled with injuries the last few seasons.
Here were Archer's observations on how Randall is doing so far with the Cowboys:
Normally a player with Cobb's résumé -- 470 catches for 5,524 yards and 41 touchdowns during his career -- would not be considered for a category like this. But injuries limited him to only nine games and 38 catches for Green Bay in 2018, and it was hard to know what the Cowboys were getting in the veteran receiver.
If the offseason work is any indication, they have found a replacement for Cole Beasley. Cobb's versatility can expand the offense for others, such as Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Cobb looked quick in and out of his breaks and fast enough to make plays down the field. Will he put up the 1,287 yards he had in 2014? No, but he gives Dak Prescott a security blanket in the slot who can turn a small gain into a big one.
The notion of Cobb replacing Beasley is a big one. While we'd like to think that Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup will provide plenty of firepower for the Cowboys offense, Dak Prescott has enjoyed a reliable threat from the slot position since he arrived.
Randall Cobb, when healthy, can do more than just make clutch catches. He has good run-after-catch skills and perhaps bring more big play potential than Beasley did.
If Cooper and Gallup do emerge as a dangerous starting duo on the outside, Cobb should have even more opportunities to punish defenses than Beasley did.
If nothing else, it's very encouraging to hear that one of the Cowboys' few 2019 free agent moves is already reaping benefits. Cobb still needs to bring it over a full season to really justify the move, but these early reports are cause for excitement.
BREAKING: Cowboys TE Rico Gathers Receives One-Game Suspension
Tight End Rico Gathers already had an uphill climb to return to the Dallas Cowboys' 53-man roster in 2019. But that climb just got even steeper; the NFL handed down a one-game suspension to Gathers today for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
If he does make the team this year, with Dallas or anyone else, Rico will have to sit out Week One of the season without pay.
Cowboys TE Rico Gathers is suspended without pay for the first game of the 2019 regular season for violating the NFL's policy and program on substances of abuse. This is from his arrest in 2018 for marijuana possession.
Gathers' chances of returning in 2019 were already hurt by Jason Witten's reversed retirement. He dropped to fourth on the TE depth chart behind Witten, Blake Jarwin, and Dalton Schultz, and Dallas only kept three tight ends last year.
The Cowboys also added Codey McElroy as a developmental player during the offseason.
While the suspension is news, the incident that led to it is not. Dallas already knew about the arrest, which occurred in early September of 2018, and have kept Gathers around up until now.
The NFL's substance abuse system is pretty formulaic, so the Cowboys likely anticipated this suspension all along. This may not change anything about how they value Rico Gathers for the 2019 season.
Nevertheless, a player who can't help you in Week One and is a liability for ever longer suspensions down the road is definitely a red flag against Gathers' job security.
Antwaun Woods: Cowboys DT is Just Getting Started
Antwaun Woods went undrafted in 2016 coming out of USC. After two years with the Tennessee Titans, he would only see one game of action. In May of 2018, the Cowboys signed Woods to a two-year contract worth 1.05 million. Probably seen as nothing more than a practice squad guy, Woods would quickly show he was much more than that.
The newly acquired Woods started his climb to stardom in Oxnard during training camp, and not for making plays. One day during practice he got into a friendly game of fisticuffs with All-Pro Center Travis Frederick. The team even posted the video on social media, which had fans buzzing and wanting to know who he was.
All-Pro Running Back Ezekiel Elliott echoed those thoughts when he saw Woods during camp. "Honestly, when we first got him, we were like, 'Who is this guy?'. He was giving Travis Frederick, one of our best players, hell all camp. Just trying to figure out where this guy came from," Elliott said.
Once the regular season started it was clear the Cowboys had found a hidden gem. Although the sack numbers won't dazzle you, seeing as he only registered 1.5, you could forget about running the ball anywhere near him. Woods has amazing quickness for a 300 pounder which allows him to extend his arms before offensive lineman can get a hand on him.
How significant is that? It becomes that much easier to bull rush and blow running plays up in the backfield.
When you can get your hands on an offensive lineman immediately when the ball is snapped, he's basically under your control. You can move him around like a puppet on a string. Essential for a 1-technique nose tackle. With that being said, there should be no surprise the Cowboys finished fifth against the run in 2018 with Woods manning the middle.
Woods draws a lot of double teams, and he handles them well. Having the ability to take on multiple linemen frees up your other playmakers. As the anchor in the middle, Woods made life a lot easier for not only his fellow defensive linemen but the team's two young star Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. Allowing them to roam freely like Lions in the Serengeti makes running backs essentially Zebra's carrying the ball, cooked food. So much so that both tallied over 120 tackles and were the only teammates in the NFL to rank in the top 15 in that category.
There's nothing but upside with Antwaun Woods. He's only had 18 games of experience in three years. He's already a stud, but with limited snaps, it can only mean he'll be even more formidable going forward.
The Cowboys have a loaded defensive lineman group with around 15 bodies, plenty of competition. All signs point to him remaining the starter, but it's not guaranteed. Even with that being said I don't expect a complacency from Woods, especially with DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn looking like the only sure starters on the defensive line. Plus this is a contract year for him, so you know he'll be even more motivated as he tries to maximize his dollars. We've only seen the tip of the iceberg from this raw talent, setting up for a potential breakout year for him in 2019.
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