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Who Might Be The Unexpected Hero For The Cowboys Against The Seahawks?

In big games, unlikely names sometimes emerge. Here are some Dallas players who might have a bigger role against Seattle than we expect.

Tom Pennington

I'm sure that Jason Garrett is preaching his standard sermon to the Dallas Cowboys that the upcoming game against the Seattle Seahawks is just one game. It should not mean anything more than any other game. Just keep stacking one good performance on top of another.

Great message, coach. For the team. The rest of us, fans and big-time media alike, are tuning that particular bit of the Way of the Rooster out this week.

This is seen as the biggest test of the Cowboys to date, and may well be the most significant measure of how far the team has come all season. No one is going to claim that the defending Super Bowl champions are a mediocre team. A win against them would arguably make Dallas one of the front-runners to get to Arizona as the NFC representative.

But a loss, as long as the Cowboys do not look bad in it, would in no way rule them out, either. The Cowboys are still a work in progress, and one that has shown steady improvement so far. Except for the -2 turnover differential that they had to overcome against the Houston Texans, the team had their most complete game of the season offensively. Tony Romo had his first 300+ yard passing game while putting a new play on his all time highlight reel, Dez Bryant got a highlight of his own, and the team still kept the rushing game as part of the plan. DeMarco Murray earned his third (well-deserved) FedEx Ground Player of the Week award (in just five weeks). Defensively the effort had some breakdowns late, especially after Rolando McClain went out when his injured groin flared up, but still held Houston to 4-13 on third down.

The standouts this season are becoming known for Dallas, including Tyrone Crawford, Orlando Scandrick, and the entire offensive line in addition to the names mentioned above, but in big games, you often need to have some other players step up. These can be players who are emerging, or someone who has been a star but has not had as big an impact so far. Here are some player to watch this week who might be poised to play that big role against the Seahawks.

J.J. Wilcox. The second-year player, who only became a safety in his last year in college, is still learning his position, but is starting to make an impact as his vision and understanding of his assignment begins to catch up to his athletic ability. Both defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and Garrett had praise for him following the last game. For a detailed breakdown of his work during the first half, see the excellent article neithan20000 wrote on him. It covers both the good and the bad, as well as considering how much the way Wilcox is used in the scheme affects his contributions. With Percy Harvin, Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson providing three very different offensive threats, Wilcox will have multiple opportunities to step up in this game, and hopefully he will get some more of the good plays that he was able to make on occasion last Sunday.

Kyle Wilber. Late last season, it looked like Wilber had found his niche as a SAM linebacker. But with the unsettled situation at defensive end, there was some experimentation in preseason and earlier this year about trying to use him as an edge rusher. Then Bruce Carter stood out since being moved to SAM, and when he was injured, Justin Durant stepped into the role. Wilber was starting to look like the forgotten linebacker. But during a radio interview, Mike Fisher offered this interesting tidbit:

Fisher is not prone to making baseless claims, so it is likely he has heard something from inside the team about this. It may be based on a belief that Wilber will be better than Durant in filling the running lanes to help contain Wilson. In any case, it will be interesting to watch the starting defensive lineup to see who gets the call at SAM.

Joseph Randle. This one comes from a different source.

You always have to take things the owner and general manager says during one of his almost constant public pronouncements with a gallon container of salt, but he does have a habit of letting things out based on what he is hearing from the coaching staff. This also fits, albeit more indirectly, with what Garrett has said this week.

"DeMarco was out there and we think that's probably too many carries in the game, week in and week out," Garrett said. "He ended up with 31 so we'd like to get that number lower. We'd really just like to get the other guys an opportunity. I don't see any wear and tear in DeMarco but having said that, we want to make sure we create a rotation and we'll focus on doing that in the next few weeks."

That would indicate more opportunities for Randle (and perhaps Lance Dunbar as well, although he is used differently than Murray or Randle). In his limited appearances, Randle has shown he can gain significant yards behind the offensive line as well. If he gets a chance to run the ball and does it well, he could help significantly in wearing down the Seattle defense.

Jason Witten. The star tight end has seen a reduction in his receptions this season, but has been a critical cog in the Cowboys' rushing machine. This could be a game where he gets to shine in his more familiar roles of being a safety valve for Romo and a move-the-sticks pass receiver. Against the highly regarded Seattle secondary, you need someone with the wiles, understanding of the game, and flat out who-needs-a-damn-helmet-or-a-spleen toughness that Witten brings to the table. This also may have some impact.

It may be time for the Senator to feast.

Those are four names who all may play big roles for Dallas. If you have your own names to add to the mix, please tell us in the comments.

Follow me @TomRyleBTB

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