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Dallas Cowboys: 6 Players That Will Impact 2016

The Dallas Cowboys Tony Romo Dez Bryant Ezekiel Elliott Cedric Thorton Byron Jones Brice Butler

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Headlines - Dallas Cowboys: 6 Players That Will Impact 2016

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.

Tony Romo

Cowboys Headlines - Dallas Cowboys: 6 Players That Will Impact 2016 7If we learned anything from the 2015 season, it is that Tony Romo is more important to the Dallas Cowboys than any other player in the organization.

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.

Dez Bryant

Cowboys Headlines - Dallas Cowboys: 6 Players That Will Impact 2016 6Much 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.

Ezekiel Elliott

Cowboys Headlines - Dallas Cowboys: 6 Players That Will Impact 2016 5There 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.

Cedric Thornton

Cowboys Headlines - Dallas Cowboys: 6 Players That Will Impact 2016 4Cedric Thornton was the Dallas Cowboys' "big" off-season signing, and personally I think he's going to be a huge upgrade for the middle of the defensive line.

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

Cowboys Headlines - Dallas Cowboys: 6 Players That Will Impact 2016 3Byron 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

Cowboys Headlines - Dallas Cowboys: 6 Players That Will Impact 2016 1Brice 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.



Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

Game Notes

Cowboys, Falcons Week 11 Injury Report

Jess Haynie

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Zack Martin

The Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons are both 4-5 and playing to keep their seasons alive. It's a mutual must-win game, and both will have to try to win it without some key players. Once again, we look at this week's injury reports.

Let's begin with your Cowboys, whose report is getting longer as the season wears on:

Dallas Cowboys

  • WR Tavon Austin (groin) - OUT
  • DE Taco Charlton (shoulder) - OUT
  • DT David Irving (ankle) - OUT
  • DT Daniel Ross (calf) - OUT
  • LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - OUT
  • DT Antwaun Woods (concussion) - Doubtful
  • G Zack Martin (knee) - Questionable
  • G Connor Williams (knee) - Questionable
  • DT Maliek Collins (knee) - Questionable
  • LB Joe Thomas (foot) - Questionable

The biggest news is the guy who won't miss tomorrow's game; All-Pro guard Zack Martin is expected to play despite his knee injury from last Sunday night. The Cowboys, already dealing with Travis Frederick's absence and now health issues at left guard, could ill afford to go without Martin in such a pivotal game.

Even if he was healthy, rookie Connor Williams might have a hard time getting in the game. Backup Xavier Su'a-Filo looked like an experienced former second-round pick last week, and he may be the better player for now.

The defensive line has been hit hard, particularly in the middle. With Irving and Ross out, Woods doubtful, and Collins uncertain, Dallas called up DT Christian Ringo from the practice squad. They will also be without Taco Charlton, who could play inside some. Veteran Caraun Reid will be seeing a lot of playing time.

Sean Lee's ongoing absence has become almost an afterthought now with the stellar play of Leighton Vander Esch. We've seen in the past when missing Lee meant disaster on defense, but Dallas' first-round rookie has helped mitigate the damage.

Atlanta Falcons

  • LB Deion Jones (foot) - OUT

It's a short list for Atlanta, but the one name on it is a big one. Arguably the team's best defensive player, Deion Jones will miss the game with a foot injury.

The Falcons' injury issues have been more in players suffering season-ending injuries. Both starting guards, Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco, are on injured reserve. Star running back Devonta Freeman is also there, and those losses help explain Atlanta's 30th-ranked rushing offense.

Both starting safeties are also on IR; Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal. Atlanta has one of the league's worst passing defense this year without them, ranking 30th in yards allowed and 28th in opponent passer rating.

So yes, the Falcons injury report compared to the Cowboys' may raise some eyebrows. But in terms of who has most of their key guys, Dallas is arguably still better off.



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4 Best Candidates for Cowboys’ Next Offensive Coordinator

Shane Carter

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Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan

The big word around the Dallas Cowboys lately is about Jason Garrett and the future of the head coaching job. Some have speculated that either Quarterback Dak Prescott or Jason Garrett will get axed, and the other will stay.

Owner Jerry Jones was quoted on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas about his young quarterback, putting to bed at least half of the conflict.

"Dak is the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. He’s young and he’s going to get extended."

This shut the door on the idea of Prescott being replaced.

As far as Jason Garrett? Jerry Jones has been less than committed.

"I’m not in the business of backing anybody; the head coach, or offensive coordinator, I just don’t back them publicly." Jerry Jones said.

So it seems that Jason Garrett’s future is up in the air.

But what about offensive coordinator Scott Linehan? What’s held the Cowboys back this year has been the offense, and a lot of it can be contributed to their predictable play calling and inability to adapt to today’s game and its current players.

Whether or not Jason Garrett retains his job, Scott Linehan’s job doesn’t seem near as secure. His scheme doesn’t really mesh with Dak Prescott and how the offense could look. There’s only so many times you can run a three tight end set and not get furious.

Cowboys fans may want Garrett gone but they might have to settle for a new offensive coordinator instead.

The good news is that there are many options out there. Options that not only could work well with Dak Prescott, but could bring the Cowboys offense into the 2010s.

Shane Waldron

Jerry Jones once said how the Cowboys offense was like the LA Rams. If they are able to sign their Co-Offensive Coordinator, then they could be.

When Matt LaFleur left to become the Tennessee Titans OC, the job became a shared job between Waldron and Aaron Kromer. I wonder if Waldron would rather have the job all to himself?

What makes Waldron so appealing is he is also the Rams tight ends coach and passing game coordinator. Those are two areas where the Rams excel and where the Cowboys need help.

Teams are going to start copying the offensive juggernauts of the NFL and the Rams are definitely one of them. The Cowboys should do themselves a favor and get out in front before other teams beat them to it.

Scott Turner

Cam Newton is having one of his best seasons. Not only is he an MVP candidate but he’s set to have career highs in completion percentage and QBR, as well as a career low in interceptions. Cam Newton is a very talented quarterback but some of this has to be attributed to his new Quarterback Coach, Scott Turner.

The son of Norv Turner, Scott has seemingly helped mold Cam into a more accurate passer without compromising who Cam Newton is as an athletic quarterback. That has Dak Prescott written all over it.

He's got NFL lineage and a new, scary Cam Newton to add to his resume. He may not have as impressive a track record as others on here but he looks like he could be a chip off the old block and get the Cowboys where they need to be going.

Lincoln Riley

A popular head coach candidate, Lincoln Riley has shown his creativity and offensive innovation during his short time as Oklahoma’s head coach. It’s uncertain if he’ll get any real offers to be a head coach, but as an OC, he would be a serious grab.

Everyone has seen the work he’s done with Baker Mayfield and now Kyler Murray. How he’s able to incorporate different formations to open up the pass game and have the run game seem unstoppable. Just imagine what he could do with the weapons he would have at his disposal in Dallas.

It's likely that Lincoln Riley is a hot commodity for a head coach position, especially in Cleveland where he could reunite with Baker Mayfield. That shouldn’t stop the Cowboys from trying to lure him to Dallas, though. Lincoln Riley could be the real missing piece that Dallas has been looking for.

Eric Bieniemy

Another product of Andy Reid, Eric Bieniemy is the offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs. The former running backs coach has the experience under Andy Reid on not only how to run an offense but to use your weapons at your disposal to the fullest.

Maybe I’m over-hyping this man but when you see the work he helped put in with Pat Mahomes and how he uses those weapons around him, it makes me imagine what he can do for the Cowboy offense.

The team has no shortage of weapons and could benefit greatly from a guy like this.

If the Chiefs make it past their first playoff game, Bieniemy could become a more attractive name when it comes time for new head coaches. However, if Jerry Jones comes calling and the right offer is met, who’s to say?

If Kris Richard can be lured from Seattle to fix the Cowboys defense, Eric Bieniemy can be lured from Kansas City to fix the Cowboys offense.



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Game Notes

Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta

The Dallas Cowboys play their next three games in 13 days, all critical to their hopes of winning the NFC East despite alternating wins and losses since week one. For the Cowboys to earn consecutive road wins, their first coming on Sunday night at the Eagles, they'll have to come out of Atlanta in much better shape than they did just a year ago.

As expected in the NFL, a lot has changed in this year. The Cowboys 27-7 loss at the Falcons in their first game without Running Back Ezekiel Elliott was the beginning of the end on a season that forced a multitude of coaching changes in Dallas.

The Cowboys stubbornness in allowing Falcons DE Adrian Clayborn to sack Dak Prescott six times by beating Chaz Green and Byron Bell is something they hoped to move past when new positional coaches were brought in at OL, TE, QB, and WR.

It took the team admitting that these moves below Offensive Coordinator Scot Linehan were not all correct two weeks ago for the Cowboys to see any real progress, but with their win last week there's hope that the Cowboys are the improved team expected weeks ago - arrived just in time for Thanksgiving.

Firing Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander was the first move, as the Cowboys named Marc Colombo OL Coach and Hudson Houck his assistant. Colombo told 105.3 The Fan in Dallas this week that he has injured Center Travis Frederick on a headset during games as well.

Colombo, Houck, and Frederick have the Cowboys offensive line confident in their ability to play to their strengths, rewarded with a renewed faith in the zone blocking scheme that was forgotten under Alexander.

If the Cowboys offensive line was their first problem in last year's Falcons loss (it was), it's becoming their biggest strength at the right time in the season.

The Cowboys necessary changes didn't stop here though.

In desperate need of a play maker on the outside, the Cowboys are seeing their investment into Wide Receiver Amari Cooper pay off so far. Cooper is averaging 3.2 yards of separation on his routes this season, ahead of Cole Beasley's 2.6 yards as the next closest pass catcher.

Cooper's presence was a big part of Ezekiel Elliott's 151 yard rushing performance at the Eagles. A player that can win on the outside with ease and dictate coverage has benefited Prescott and the Cowboys game plan on offense enough to send away a first round pick.

It will be up to this "rebuilt" Cowboys offense to match the Falcons on Sunday. Atlanta is averaging 27.1 points per game this season, but a much more dangerous 32.2 at home. After a 1-4 start, the 4-5 Falcons are playing in front of their home fans for the first time in two weeks, losing at the Browns in week ten.

The Cowboys felt they'd be prepared for games like this after their offseason moves, instead needing to show the type of in-season urgency that's been rare for Jason Garrett's team. The same can be said about a Falcons team that's experienced playing with their backs to the wall much sooner than the Cowboys have this season, setting up a big NFC match up in the early slot Sunday.

Dak Prescott will be thankful that Chaz Green nor Byron Bell are protecting him, wanting nothing more than to deliver another win for the Cowboys to take into Thanksgiving against the division-leading Washington Redskins. Not all of the coaches responsible for the lack of adjustment in last year's game are gone. What the Cowboys do have are tangible new ideas from coaches that understand they need more than a win at the defending Super Bowl champions to call this Cowboys season a success.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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