In 2009, Miles Austin came from relatively nowhere to be the breakout performer for the Cowboys, the NFC East, and maybe even the entire NFL. I know a few guys around this site and others had high hopes for him, but no one expected this. In three years with the Cowboys Austin had racked up 18 catches for 354 yards and 3 TDs prior to 2009. He started the season as the 3rd or 4th option until he got a start in game 5. By season's end he had amassed 81 catches for 1320 yards and 11 TDs and was on his way to his first Pro Bowl. No question a breakout performer.
Ok, so here is the question: Who will be the Cowboys 2010 Breakout Performer?
I'll provide some options and I'm looking for two things from you. 1) Who do you think will be the breakout performer?; and 2) Who would be the most beneficial breakout performer? For instance, you might think Doug Free is the most likely guy, but maybe a breakout by Jason Williams would ultimately help the team the most. If that case, your answer would look like this: Free/J Williams, and then feel free to comment.
Also, let me define "breakout performer." This will typically be a younger guy who hasnt had his opportunity to shine yet, or just hasnt seized that opportunity. This opportunity might come from someone else's injury (like happened with Miles) or someone else's lack of productivity (like happened a few year ago with Romo.) I dont want to include rookies we might draft or free agents we might sign.
And the nominees are ...
QB McGee - Oh man, I shutter even writing this. I mean, it would be wonderful to find our QB of the future in this guy, but can you think of all the bad that would need to happen for us to get to him? Let's just move on.
HB Choice - All it would take would be an injury to either Felix or Barber (who guys with an injury history) and Choice would get significant playing time. It's also possibly someone could be foolish enough to trade for Barber, but I dont expect that would happen. I think most of us think he has the ability to be something special given the opportunity. But what's the cost of that opportunity? (ps, I considered putting Felix here in the sense that a 1500 yard/12 TD season would be a breakout over what we are expecting. But he's a very high profile guy and a starter in 2010, so I'm leaving him off.)
WR Ogletree - Showed real promise this season. Good speed, good size, good routes, good hands. They loved him running the bubble screen last year. Much more production than Miles Austin's first two years. Could we be looking at a starting pair of receivers in Austin and Ogletree in the near future?
TE Bennett - In a two TE set, it really wouldnt require an injury for a breakout season from a Dallas TE. I think many of us would have voted for Martellus as being the most likely guy last season. Now I'm not even sure he's the most likely TE on the team to breakout. I still think he's got he ability.
TE Phillips - Plays a lot like Witten, in my opinion. Not flashy and doesnt have near the athletic ability of a Bennett, but gives 100% effort and does everything asked of him. Could even find a home at FB next season.
OT Free - Easily the most likely candidate, especially if he can find a spot in the starting rotation. Will have to beat out Flo or Colombo in camp for that to happen. Looks to be the future at one of the tackle positions.
OL Brewster - I dont have a lot of faith in this guy, personally. He came from a spread offense and needed a lot of work even before he missed last year with an injury. Could play RT or either Guard position. But if he can play, it would be huge for this offensive line.
DE Bowen - Not as young as the others on this list, but still hasnt had the opportunity to breakout yet. He gets time in the 4 man front on passing downs and gets some push. An injury or demotion could allow him to play everydown and show something.
DE Hatcher - See Bowen. He's definitely below Bowen in the pecking order, so he's the longer shot.
OLB Butler - Showed some promise last year the few times he got into the game. We need someone to adequately back-up Ware and Spencer, although the thought of needing him for a prolonged period of time scares me as much as the back-up Quarterback position. But this Defense is based on pressure, so someone has to be able to get to the QB besides Ware, Spencer and Rat.
OLB B Williams - See Butler. Was injured last season, but in camp he got more press than Butler. Could end up being a pass rush specialist.
ILB J Williams - Was our highest draft pick last year, but didnt get much playing time. Seems the team was hoping he could be the 3rd down coverage LB we lost in Kevin Burnett. He was injured, so I'll give him a break, but its not looking great for him.
ILB Hodge - Was injured all of last season, but was also a candidate for that 3rd down coverage LB. Also thought to be an excellent special teams player. I dont think he projets to an every down linebacker, but he could surprise us.
CB Scandrick - We've seen him play quite a bit, but the jury is still out regarding him as a starter one day. Last year he wasnt as good as the previous year. And that's been highlighted by the meteoric rise of Jenkins. He's not close at all to challenging Newman's job as some Newman detractors like to think.
S M Hamlin - I'm not sure anyone knows what this guy's got. Was though of very highly before his injury, but didnt do much during the season. He is another guy who could surprise us and could turn a weakness into a strength.
Did I forget anyone?