Jason Garrett always talks about being your best regardless of circumstance, because we know that life will throw plenty of adversity at you. What defines the person is their ability to embrace the challenge and continuously move forward.
There are certainly a lot of Cowboys on this roster that have had success because they embraced the challenge. There are others who have been slowed by injuries or other circumstances that have not allowed them to play to their potential. With that said, every season you can find players that are looking for redemption. No matter if it was injuries, rookie struggles, off-the-field antics or lack of playing time that stood in their way, they now have the opportunity to rewrite their story. The Cowboys certainly have a few players that come to mind.
For example, you could say that Jeremy Mincey was such a candidate last season. He had been a journeyman in the NFL, but somehow found his best attributes when he became a Dallas Cowboy. Now he's one of the locker room leaders for this defense. Redemption can come from many things, but it's the motivation to flip the page and keep grinding to become a better version of yourself that drives it. Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Barry Church, Dez Bryant are all grinders, but they weren't all cut from the same cloth. Let's look at some of the current Cowboys players who are looking to turn around their fortunes this year.
Sean Lee, WLB
Few players were ever more deserving candidates for a good football career than Sean Lee. Lee has missed 34 games in his five years in the NFL. Lee tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the very first OTA practice last season after he had been playing with that already partially torn ACL dating back to his college days at Penn State. Now Lee is playing without braces and back with the Cowboys after missing the entire 2014 season. Though Lee is a full go, coaches have stated their plan is to ease him back into team activities slowly. Sean Lee has been one of the league's best linebackers when he's been healthy, the point for the Cowboys is to keep him active and possibly get an All-Pro effort out of the 28-year old. This year is without a doubt a big year for Lee who looks to shed his injury-prone label and continue what still has time to become an amazing career.
Greg Hardy, DE
There will always be a market for a really good pass rusher, but there isn't one for domestic violence. Hardy has been nothing but a consistent and motivating player since coming to the Cowboys. He's sold even his hardest critics in the locker room, but now he has to take it even further. Hardy is only here on a one-year deal but has the opportunity of a lifetime to change that - and he isn't coming into a situation where he is the only pass rusher on the team. Dallas took measures in the draft and free agency to make sure of that. All eyes will be on Hardy as everyone awaits the ruling on his recent hearing of his 10-game suspension. If his suspension is reduced, as many believe it will, Hardy will have the chance to repair his image on and off the field. If he finds success in Dallas, where the spotlights are always on, he'll have a great shot at not only being re-signed but also at getting his private life back in order.
Morris Claiborne, CB
Surely seeing this name on the list will bring its own groans and snarls. Claiborne is coming off two procedures that are not so easy to return from. Injuries and confidence issues have kept him from ever living up to his pedigree as the sixth-overall pick in the 2012 draft. At this point though, becoming that blue-chip talent should not be the goal. Morris is progressing well in his rehab and should be ready for training camp. What he needs to focus on is just becoming a contributor in 2015. He has the pedigree and athletic ability, now is the time to show something in order to stay relevant. The Cowboys have declined to pick up his option and drafted a cornerback with their first pick. If he can take advantage of any opportunities he's given, than maybe he'll get another shot in the NFL.
Darren McFadden, RB
Like Claiborne, McFadden comes with a high draft status and a history of injuries that have limited his effectiveness. McFadden has been on some pretty bad Oakland Raiders teams, but that doesn't change the fact that other backs had success on the same team. He's only had one 1,000-yard rushing season and has had nagging injuries that have kept him out on multiple occasions. McFadden now comes to a team that needs to solve their running back questions after seeing DeMarco Murray leave for a bigger payday. He also comes to an offense that is predicated on running the ball and has arguably the best offensive line in the league. After Murray rans for 848 yards before contact last season, there is a belief that McFadden could have a similar success behind the Cowboys O-line. McFadden has always had breakaway speed but maybe lacks the vision that Murray had. If McFadden can jump out in this three-way running back competition, he may be in for a really good year. At 28 when the season begins, time is not necessarily in his favor. The Cowboys got him on a pretty cheap $200k signing bonus, what a coup would it be if he delivered?
Joseph Randle, RB
Randle, like Hardy, is trying to repair his image after making some questionable decisions off the field. He's been Murray's backup for the past few years but has shown the ability to make plays when called upon. The question is if he can show that type of production in a bigger role. In 2014, every time Randle touched the ball, good things happened. He's also not been shy about his opportunity this season. When asked if he was "chomping at the bit" after watching Murray and this offensive line, Randle said that he felt there was still "meat on the bone." Regardless of how some may feel about those comments, Randle wasn't lying about it. One complaint about Murray's game has been the obtainable yards that he's left on the field in favor of contact. "Joe," as he prefers to be called, tailors his game to finding the hole and exploding through it. If Randle can continue to do those things and maintain his phenomenal vision, then he'll definitely be a favorite to win the lead back role.
Brandon Carr, CB
There has been quite the discussion over Carr's contract and worth to the team this offseason. Many have reported about a possible reduced salary and some pundits have even suggested he be cut, which makes absolutely no sense when looking at the roster. Yet, mum's the word at Valley Ranch, at least for the moment. Carr was good when he arrived on the scene as the big-ticket free agent in 2012. He even sealed a few victories (i.e. Pittsburgh) for the Cowboys. After a scheme change which required some zone coverage, Carr had some struggles. Last season, he dealt with the death of his mother after her long battle with cancer, plus his play on the field suffered early on. However, when Carr was placed back on the right side and more man-coverage was deployed later in the year, he improved. He didn't record any interceptions but it seemed that he was getting his groove back. In fact, neither Calvin Johnson nor Jordy Nelson had much success against him in the playoffs. Brandon Carr is healthy and has been on the field mentoring Byron Jones early into these practices. There is certainly hope that he'll be ready to bounce back after finishing strong.
DeMarcus Lawrence, DE
Lawrence was sidelined for half of the season but when he came back he was improved each week. He even turned up the heat when it mattered most in the playoffs. Though the Cowboys went out and got Greg Hardy and drafted Randy Gregory, it's Lawrence who has the best shot at success. He gained some muscle mass in the offseason and looks far more intimidating than he he did as a rookie. With a year under his belt, Lawrence looks to make a steady climb in his sophomore year. With more attention going to Hardy on the right side, Lawrence should be able to rack up some statistics on the left side. He surely looks the part, now Lawrence looks to make it all translate on the field.