There are several players on the Dallas Cowboys roster who will find themselves with an opportunity to provide fans with some fireworks this season, to break out and establish themselves as stars in the National Football League. All that is needed will be for them to take advantage of the opportunity and live up to their potential. Let's take a few moments and look at the players who have the chance to prove themselves this season.
Claiborne arrived in Dallas with a bang. During the 2012 NFL Draft the Cowboys traded their first and second picks in that draft to the St. Louis Rams to secure Claiborne with the sixth overall selection of the draft. The Cowboys were facing issues in the secondary, and Claiborne had been touted as the best cornerback prospect since Deion Sanders, so the trade was a logical one for the team to make. Unfortunately, the deal has been slow to pay off for the Cowboys.
Mo Claiborne enters the 2014 season with the onus on him. He came into the league and missed a significant part of the preseason before his rookie year due to rehabilitation from off season surgery and it showed in his performance. Claiborne struggled in his first season as a professional. The second season was even worse. Again missing his off season work due to health issues, Claiborne faced the challenge of also adapting from the man-to-man defense that he had spent his entire football life playing to a zone-based defense. He eventually lost his starting role to Orlando Scandrick as the Cowboys struggled with their overall play on defense.
Now Claiborne is healthy and he has been a full participant in off season activities. He has dedicated himself to becoming the player that scouts from around the league expected him to be. Early returns indicate that the "new and improved" Mo has made great strides now that he has been able to focus on his development. The 2014 season should prove to be a breakthrough year for the former LSU defensive back, assuming that he can continue to remain healthy
When the Cowboys drafted Escobar in the 2013 draft, many fans viewed his selection as unnecessary or even as a wasted pick. His rookie season did nothing to alleviate those concerns. Escobar struggled as a blocker and did not play a significant role in the Dallas offense.The promised two tight end offense failed to materialize.
New offensive play caller Scott Linehan has brought with him some new ideas for getting all of his options involved. Under his leadership, Escobar has been seeing reps as a big slot receiver. In this set, the former San Diego State Aztec will find himself in a position where he can take advantage of his superior ball catching skills. His size will also help him to "bully" safeties who are forced to cover him while his athletic ability will give him an advantage if teams try to adapt by covering him with a linebacker.
In addition to moving Escobar around in the formation, the Cowboys will also benefit from having a pair of legends working with the young tight end. Jason Witten will be around to mentor Gavin as his understudy, while newly hired tight ends coach Mike Pope will be focusing his talents on helping yet another gifted prospect achieve his full potential. With Witten not getting any younger, there will be a concerted effort to get Escobar more involved in the game and to prepare him to succeed Witten in the not too distant future.
J. J. Wilcox
Wilcox, who came into the NFL with only one year of defensive experience on his resume, was making great strides as a rookie when he found himself derailed by a dual blow. Not only was he sidelined by injury like many of his defensive teammates, but he also lost his mother at the same time that he was expected to be named as the Cowboys starter. He would not recover from the impact and Wilcox spent the majority of his first season as a back up.
Like his teammate Morris Claiborne, Wilcox has spent the off season working to perfect his game. He is seeing a similar return for his efforts. Wilcox has made great strides in learning his responsibility as a defender, and countless hours have been spent on learning the proper techniques that are needed to be successful in the NFL. Once he is able to combine what he is being taught with his natural football instincts, Wilcox will be expected to change the nature of the Cowboys defensive secondary. The 2014 season could be the year when we see that happen
The Dallas Cowboys have a plethora of young ball players who have the potential to explode onto the scene this season. Some are high-round draft picks while others came to the squad by other means. Claiborne, Escobar, and Wilcox may be three of the leading prospects to take the next step but they are far from the only ones. Tell us what you think, Blogging The Boys readers. Will it be one of these guys who delivers the fireworks this year? Will it be someone else?