The Dallas Cowboys' disastrous 2015 season will hopefully be an afterthought once the 2016 season kicks off. In order for that to happen, though, America's Team will have to rely on some of their players to step up and make a bigger impact than they did a season ago.
I decided to compile a list and came up with six players that should not only have really good statistical seasons, but will help raise the playing level of the entire team as well.
Now, some of these names may be obvious to you, but it's worth the mention to remember that the Dallas Cowboys still have a lot of talented players. That they are better than their 2015 4-12 losing record would indicate.
Success for the Cowboys will ultimately come down to how healthy Tony Romo remains. That shouldn't be too much of a surprise for anyone who witnessed what happened in 2015.
Luckily, the word is that Tony Romo was moving around in OTAs and mini-camp better than he has in the past few seasons, and there weren't any lingering effects from his collarbone injuries last year. That is encouraging news for Cowboys fans.
Not only is he my favorite to win Comeback Player of the Year, but he could also be an MVP candidate when all is said and done. I'm predicting another season like he had in 2014 when the Cowboys went 12-4 and made the playoffs.
Much like Tony Romo, Dez Bryant's 2015 season was injury plagued. He was never quite 100% the entire year. Also like Romo, I expect Dez Bryant to return to his 2014 form, where he caught 88 passes for 1,320 receiving yards and scored 16 touchdowns.
Dez Bryant is the Cowboys' emotional and inspirational leader, and his return to form should help the offense once again be one of the better units in the NFL. He also adds that fiery attitude that the team seems to lack without him.
His presence on the field must be accounted for at all times, which keeps opposing defenses from stacking the box when they are trying to shut down the running game.
With the exception of Romo, Dez Bryant returning from an injury plagued season might be the most beneficial to the team's offensive success in 2016.
There are already extremely high expectations for Ezekiel Elliott entering his rookie season. A lot of that has to do with his draft status, but also because he will be running behind arguably the best offensive line in the NFL.
Elliott is one of the best all-around rookie running backs to enter the NFL in perhaps the last decade. He should literally be able to hit the ground running and add a boost to the Cowboys running game in 2016.
If Darren McFadden can run for nearly 1,100 yards for the Cowboys, then Elliott should easily reach that milestone. He is a better fit to run in the zone blocking scheme than McFadden and he is also more talented.
With Ezekiel Elliott as the lead RB, the Cowboys should get back to that blueprint that worked so well for them in 2014 by running the football.
Nick Hayden held down the one-tech on the Cowboys defense for the past three years, but I doubt he will be missed. Although Hayden was solid during his time with the organization, he was really nothing more than an average player, at best.
Cedric Thornton is a major upgrade for the one-tech in Rod Marinelli's 4-3 defense. Not only is he good against the run, but he can also put pressure on opposing quarterbacks from the middle of the Cowboys defense.
Thornton's presence in the middle should help allow Tyrone Crawford to become a more destructive pass rusher from the 3-tech, and hopefully provide the Cowboys with more QB sacks. That will help the entire defense, especially the secondary.
I expect Cedric Thornton to have a big impact in 2016 for the Dallas Cowboys.
Byron Jones may just be entering the second year in the NFL, but I'm personally betting that he will raise the level of his game and make a big impact on the backend of the Cowboys defense.
Jones will finally be able to focus all of his attention on learning the intricacies of playing free safety in Rod Marinelli's defense. Last year, as a rookie, Byron Jones had a lot thrown at him. He had to play several different positions in the secondary. He responded well, but being able to focus on just one position should allow him to improve as a player.
Byron Jones could be the safety the Cowboys organization has been looking for ever since Darren Woodson retired. He has the same type of skill set to be able to cover receivers all over the field. That means 2016 should be a big year for him.
I'm predicting he will have more interceptions by himself in 2016 than the entire defense did in 2015.
Brice Butler should give Terrance Williams a run for his money for the #2 wide receiver position opposite Dez Bryant.
Butler has the size and speed to be a dangerous weapon for Tony Romo and showed flashes of that in 2015. Unfortunately, a nagging hamstring injury didn't allow him to really show what he is capable of, but I think that will change once the 2016 season kicks off.
He will have had a full off-season to develop a good working chemistry with Tony Romo and will have a better understanding of the offense. He has the physical tools to succeed in the NFL. He now just has to put it all together.
Butler's impact might not show up in the stats, but he should definitely keep defenses from double covering Dez Bryant.
Dallas Cowboys to Re-Sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur for 2018
Continuity is the key to good special teams play in the NFL. Already losing long-time Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia to the Raiders - who promptly snatched ST aces Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber in free agency - the Dallas Cowboys have announced their intentions to re-sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur for the 2018 season.
Returning on a one-year deal, the fan favorite Ladouceur will be back to do what he does best in cleanly executing almost every special teams snap for Chris Jones or Dan Bailey to handle.
Long snapper L.P. Ladouceur will re-sign with the Cowboys on Monday, according to sources, on a one-year deal. He will be in his 14th season with the franchise. Only Jason Witten, Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Bill Bates and Mark Tuinei will have more years of... https://t.co/yTQbMYyrIv
While Jones has improved as the Cowboys' punter with each passing season, Kicker Dan Bailey actually enters 2018 as another question mark on this unit. With the general belief around the team being that Bailey will be just fine moving forward, the Cowboys will no longer have to worry about who handles long snaps next year either.
L.P. Ladouceur is back in the silver and blue, and in this moment, everything can be alright with the world.
Report: Raiders Sign Former Cowboys LB Kyle Wilber
A Free Agency period filled with departures continued for the Dallas Cowboys today, as the Oakland Raiders have reportedly signed the now-former Cowboys LB Kyle Wilber.
The Raiders have signed LB Kyle Wilber: https://t.co/TaC6cqjval
Wilber has been with the Cowboys since 2012, and has played in all 16 games four of the past five seasons. Most of his time has come on special teams, but he did provide solid linebacker depth for the Cowboys since joining the team.
Dallas has now lost both Wilber and Anthony Hitchens, depleting their linebacker depth even further over the last couple weeks.
The Raiders have now signed two key special teams contributors for the Cowboys in Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber this offseason. Hopefully Dallas can replace these types of "replacement level" players throughout the rest of the offseason, especially during the NFL Draft.
Report: Cowboys Officially Release CB Orlando Scandrick
After requesting his release from the team just a few days ago, Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick has gotten his wish. According to ESPN's Josina Anderson, Scandrick has officially been cut by the Dallas Cowboys.
I'm told the #Cowboys have informed CB Orlando Scandrick he will be released, per source.
This move will reportedly save the Cowboys roughly $1.4M against the salary cap, as we hope they finally look to make some moves during the Free Agency period.
Scandrick's release comes after an offseason in which the Cowboys totally overhauled the back end of their defense, specifically their cornerbacks. With the emergence of young, promising players such as Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis, and the health issues of the aging Scandrick, the move makes a lot of sense.
In fact, after the Cowboys drafted Awuzie in the second round of last year's draft it was rumored the Cowboys were looking to move Scandrick for extra draft picks. Instead, one year later, they have cut him to save some cap room.
Orlando Scandrick should have a market to find a new team elsewhere, but his time in Dallas has now come to a close.
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