Over at ESPN Insider, they gave us eight candidates to have breakout seasons in the NFL in 2015. One of those players was the Cowboys' own DeMarcus Lawrence.
Lawrence, the team's 2014 second-round pick, played in just seven regular-season games last year due to a foot injury. Athletic and explosive off the edge, Lawrence is a building block for the Dallas defense.
I would agree with that assessment. Towards the end of the year Lawrence started to make much more of an impact. That likely came because he was finally gaining some experience and putting what he learned to use. If he hadn't injured his foot and missed the first half of the season, he would have gained that experience in games one through eight. So the improvement we saw at the end of the year might have happened in the middle of the season, and the run of games at the end of the year may have been when he really started to put it together. That was delayed but we should see it in 2015.
Once Greg Hardy sees the field after whatever suspension he receives, a rotation at end of Hardy, Lawrence and Jeremy Mincey (who would likely see action from the left side this year) could prove to be a formidable trio.
So who else are possible breakout candidates for Dallas? Here are four more players who might breakout, or at the very least start playing bigger roles. (Admittedly, the definition of "breakout" here is very flexible, but it's all in good fun).
1. Whoever the Cowboys draft at running back. Yeah, that's sort of a cheat, but the Cowboys will likely pick a running back in the early rounds of the NFL draft. And if they do that player will likely be very talented considering the depth at running back in the draft. And, that back will be playing behind what is probably the best line in football on a team that has rededicated itself to the run. That should lead to a big year for somebody.
2. J.J. Wilcox - This is the year we put aside the caveat of "he hasn't played that many seasons at safety" and judge him on his play without reservation. Wilcox has shown potential at times with up and down play. This year, maybe he puts it all together and quiets the talk that the Cowboys need help at safety
3. Ben Gardner - This has to happen for no other reason than he is already a folk legend here at BTB. Just imagine if he actually was playing and making a contribution. The Football Gods must make this happen.
4. Devin Street - Yes, this one is a real longshot because Street was virtually invisible in 2014. The Cowboys love Street's size at receiver. And now Dwayne Harris is out of the way, he has a chance to move up the depth chart. Terrance Williams has looked brilliant at times, but has stretches of games where he fades. Maybe Street can squeak out some playing time and start showing why the Cowboys moved up to get him.
Okay, who ya got for your breakout candidate(s)?