When people think Dallas Cowboys, household names come to mind.
Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and rookie Ezekiel Elliott are all well-known around NFL circles.
The new triplets in Big D will have a lot to say about the Cowboys’ success in 2016, but what about the 50 players? A decimated defense will need lesser-known talents to step up, and role players will need to take some pressure off the offense as well.
Look for these underrated talents to help the cause in 2016, just not receive the praise.
When I think of Brice Butler, I can’t help remembering Laurent Robinson. Robinson stepped in as the number-three wide receiver in 2011 and broke out for 11 touchdowns in 14 games, which led the team.
Tony Romo has the ability to make everyone around him better. Butler has flashed some ability this preseason too, specifically shining with Dak Prescott. I have spoken on the menacing inconsistency of Terrance Williams, and Butler has a clear opportunity to rise up this year.
Expect Brice Butler to become a name fans will remember this year, as he breaks out as a nice deep threat for Romo.
Ezekiel Elliott is receiving all the press since the draft, but it’s been Alfred Morris thriving this offseason. To be fair, he has been the definition of underrated his entire career.
In his four years with the Washington Redskins, all he did was rush for over 1,000 yards three times. He is a model of consistency and his performance last week against Miami continued to prove his worth.
As the team approaches the third preseason game, this deep Dallas backfield hasn’t really lived up to that name. Elliott will finally see time this Thursday, but the statuses of Lance Dunbar and Darren McFadden remain uncertain.
Considering the small contract Morris received this offseason, he is clearly underrated.
Expect Morris to act as the change-of-pace back for Elliott, and then some. He has proven he can at least be an effective starter if Elliott is slow out of the gate. And if the rookie fails to live up to the hype, Morris will carry the load this year.
If the Dallas rushing attack skips a beat or two this year, James Hanna’s injury will play a part. Jason Witten has been one of the most complete tight ends in football over the past decade, but Hanna’s impact on the team can’t be ignored.
He’s the guy you can rely on to battle in the trenches and grind as a blocking tight end. He is capable of getting dirty and making the unseen plays that matter. When Dallas wants to run the ball 30 plus times a game, the loss of Hanna hurts. Gavin Escobar has failed to live up to the hype as a second rounder as well. If the team wants to return to 2014 form, James Hanna needs to get healthy soon.
The talk of the offseason for the Dallas defense has been the suspensions. The front-seven once looking nice on paper is now one of the league’s worst. But how about the secondary? I could argue a few Dallas cornerbacks are looking at breakout seasons (Byron Jones and Morris Claiborne), but went with Orlando Scandrick for a few reasons.
He’s tough, and a corner who can cover well in the slot. He can tackle too, which is a plus. For the 2015 season, he ranked 14th on Bleacher Report’s list of Top NFL Corners. I wonder how much better he would be if he actually had a pass rush on his side.
When the top NFL cornerbacks are mentioned, his name remains off the list, but he is a solid, underrated player. I expect big results from the Dallas secondary this year, anchored by Scandrick.
In an offseason full of bad headlines for the Cowboys, it will be refreshing to see some unsung heroes steal a few positive ones.